British Airways cabin crew go on five-day strike

British Airways cabin crew go on five-day strike

The walkout by members of the Unite union went ahead after hopes of a last-minute deal collapsed, with the two sides engaged in a war of words.

The row continued, with Tony Woodley, Unite's joint leader, accusing BA's chief executive Willie Walsh, of wanting "regime change" in the union's cabin crew branch, Bassa.
Woodley said, BA had achieved its original aim of cutting 1,700 cabin crew jobs, but had since "broadened" the dispute.

"Those savings are in the bank. This dispute has been broadened, so this is not just about cost downs, it is about regime change. It is personal because of the dislike and trust of the branch."

Woodley said, the strike would have been suspended if BA had accepted an offer he made yesterday to call off the action if the airline returned travel concessions to staff who took part in strikes in March.

BA said it was concentrating on its contingency plans to deal with the five days of action this week, pledging to carry 70 per cent of its customers.

The airline has accused Woodley of negotiating via the media rather than through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) and pointed the finger of blame at the union for failing to continue with talks on Sunday.

In a statement, BA said it had agreed to a request from Acas to meet during the afternoon and was "surprised" that Unite did not do likewise.

"We have already offered to reinstate travel concessions to cabin crew once all elements of our offer have been implemented. Of more concern to us is Tony Woodley's comment to the media that he wants to revisit certain proposals in our offer, when previously he had indicated that these were agreed," it added.

This position reinforces our view that Bassa (the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association), at the centre of this dispute, is not serious in trying to come to a negotiated agreement with British Airways - and that Tony cannot control Bassa, it said.

The airline said its priority now was helping customers caught in the middle of the dispute, adding that its focus would be on flying tens of thousands of passengers in the coming days despite the strike.

The union is planning two further five-day strikes, including a walkout during the school half-term next week.

Britain's Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said: "A strike is not going to resolve the outstanding issues, however difficult they are. The parties need to keep talking.

"The jobs of all BA staff depend on the airline's future competitiveness and the loyalty of all its customers and, in order to protect both, I now urge BA cabin crew to keep flying and keep talking."

BA in a statement said: "Our operations around the world have got off to a good start this morning. The numbers of cabin crew reporting at Heathrow are currently at the levels we need to operate our published schedule.

Over the next five days, we will fly a full normal schedule at Gatwick and London City Airports. Cabin crew at Gatwick are continuing to report for work as normal this morning.
We will fly more than 60,000 booked customers around the world every day between May 24 and May 28, despite these five days being targeted for strikes by Unite.

Many thousands more will be able to use seats we have secured on more than 50 other airlines to reach their destination if they still wish to travel, or be rebooked on to an alternative BA flight departing within the next 355 days."

"Refunds are also available for customers whose flights have been cancelled. We will be operating the majority of our revised short-haul schedule at Heathrow using our own aircraft and cabin crew, but this will be supplemented by leasing up to eight aircraft with pilots and cabinet crews from other UK or European airlines," it said.

Customers are advised to check ba.com on a regular basis to see if their flight is still operating before departing for the airport.

If their flight has been cancelled they should not come to the airport but contact British Airways or their travel agent.

"We continue to be available for talks with Unite".

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