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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July, 2003, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
BA and unions resolve dispute
BA's Rod Eddington (left) shakes hands with Paul Talbot of Amicus
Rod Eddington: Deal done in time for Thursday's results presentation

The threat of strikes by British Airways workers has been averted after the airline reached agreement with unions in a dispute over working conditions at Heathrow.

The row centred on the introduction of a new electronic clocking-on system at Heathrow airport, which staff feared would be used to push through other changes in pay and conditions.

When workers walked out earlier this month over the issue, hundreds of flights were cancelled, leaving passengers stranded.

Sir Bill Morris, leader of the T&G union, said the deal had achieved its key aim of separating pay from the clocking-on issue and that all threats of further strike action had been lifted.

"It's a good day for the employees, a good day for the company and a even better day for passengers," he said.

Dispute over introducing swipecard system for check-in and customer support staff at Heathrow and Gatwick
Workers said system was being 'imposed' without consultation and feared it would prompt move to 'annualised hours'
Some BA Heathrow staff have used the system for past three years
BA doesn't use it at other UK airports and says no plans for wider rollout
Threat of strikes within weeks if dispute was not resolved

A memorandum of agreement between BA and the unions said: "The trade unions recognise that a swipe card system is an integral part of improving the efficient use of staff and resources."

But it also stated clearly that the new system would not affect staff pay in any way or the way that pay is calculated - one of union members' key concerns.

"The new system will not be used to introduce split shifts or annualised hours for staff....nor will it be linked to attendance management policies."

The swipe cards will now be used voluntarily by staff until becoming compulsory on 1 September.

'Valuing staff'

Kevin Curran, GMB general secretary
It's a lesson to other companies.......value your employees

Kevin Curran, GMB

The agreement added that any further areas where efficiency can be improved will be discussed between both the company and unions.

Unions had been severely angered by BA's decision to try and impose the new swipecard system without discussions with staff - prompting the 24-hour wildcat strike earlier this month.

GMB union general secretary Kevin Curran said the dispute had highlighted the need for companies to "listen to employees".

"It's a lesson to other companies.......value your employees."

Sir Bill Morris said union members had never opposed the cards in principle, but were "determined that information gathered on the cards could not be used to undermine the terms and conditions of employees".

Paying the price

Jay Gibson checks latest news
The cost of the chaos is estimated at 30m

The strike over the new system at Heathrow earlier this month forced BA to scrap more than 500 flights, and thousands of passengers endured days of chaos while the backlog was cleared.

Unions had warned of organised strikes throughout the summer if the dispute continued to go unresolved.

BA warned the future of the airline rested on finding an agreement with staff.

The airline is now expected to give some indication of how much the disruption has cost the group, with estimates from analysts and chief executive Rod Eddington putting the cost at tens of millions of pounds.

The company will give details of its financial performance for the April to June period on Thursday.

It is expected to announce losses of about 60m to 70m.

Those figures will not reflect the recent disruption, but will show the impact of the Sars outbreak and Iraq war.

The BBC's Rory Cellan Jones
"Both sides feel that they've got something from deal"

BA's director for Heathrow Mervyn Walker
"The unions concerned have lifted all threats of strike action"


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