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Last Updated: Monday, 29 January 2007, 18:24 GMT
Union calls off BA strike action
Willie Walsh and Tony Woodley
The deal came after 120 hours of negotiations

A planned two-day strike by British Airways cabin crew has been called off.

The airline now expects to fly a full programme of domestic and international flights on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Marathon talks between BA and the Transport and General Workers Union (T&G) had been going on to try to avert the series of stoppages.

BA executives and union leaders said an agreement had been reached on the key issues of pay, pensions and the management of sickness absence.

Two potential 72-hour strikes earmarked for February have also been called off.

BA said it planned to operate a full programme of flights from Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

It had earlier cancelled 1,300 flights for Tuesday and Wednesday and said the agreement had come too late to prevent disruption to "tens of thousands" of passengers.

News of a settlement - which analysts said could have cost the airline tens of millions of pounds - sent BA shares up 2.75% to 542 pence by the close of the London stock market.

'Excellent job'

BA chief executive Willie Walsh said he was "really pleased" with the conclusion to the talks, and T&G general secretary Tony Woodley said it was "a fresh start".

Under the negotiated deal, cabin crew will get a two-year wage rise worth 4.6% this year and an increase in-line with inflation in the second year..

We believe this agreement lays a firm foundation to enable us to provide even higher standards of onboard service for customers in the future
Willie Walsh, BA chief executive

Mr Walsh and other managers held more than 120 hours of negotiations with officials from the T&G.

Both sides had been seeking an agreement to avoid the 48-hour walkout over sickness absence, pay and staffing at BA.

Mr Walsh called the outcome "a solid foundation for working for the future".

"We are pleased that our negotiations with the T&G have resulted in an agreement that removes the threat of strikes," he said.

"We have always said that our cabin crew do an excellent job and we believe this agreement lays a firm foundation to enable us to provide even higher standards of onboard service for customers in the future."

'Regained respect'

Mr Woodley said: "This has been a very difficult set of negotiations to address a multitude of problems that have built up over a long period of time."

He said the deal with BA addressed absence control management, agreements to resolve what he called " a two-tier wage structure", and an agreement on pensions.

The agreement on the table will not be improved
Tony Woodley, T&G general secretary

"Cabin crew have regained the respect that they are entitled to," he added.

"They did not feel they were being treated with respect. It is time for the company and cabin crews to make a fresh start.

"The agreement on the table will not be bettered. It is time to get back to normal."

He also apologised to members of the public who had been affected by what he called "an unfortunate dispute".

Sickness issue

Out of the airline's 14,000 cabin crew, about 11,000 are members of the T&G - 96% of whom voted for strike action.

They had complained that a new regime on sickness pay, introduced 18 months ago, meant they were forced to work when they were ill.

HAVE YOUR SAY
We have just been forced to cut our holiday short by the total chaos caused by this
Simon, Harrow

The union claimed that some cabin crew lived in fear of calling in sick.

BA said the main part of the new regime simply involved staff having a conversation with their manager when they return to work following sick leave.

It insisted the measures were needed to cut high levels of sickness absence, which it calculated have come down from 22 days per staff member to 12 days since the new rules were brought in.

Starter pay rates for crew members, overall pay grading and promotion opportunities were also subject to dispute.

The union also wanted the introduction of a single pay arrangement for cabin crew staff, rather than the existing two tier system, with staff who joined after 1997 being paid less than those employed before that date.

BA urged passengers wishing to travel on a reinstated service on Tuesday or Wednesday to contact the airline or their travel agent.

Those without a confirmed booking or who have not been rebooked were advised not to come to the airport without first calling BA on 0800 727 800.


SEE ALSO
Q&A: BA strike called off
29 Jan 07 |  Business
What BA and the T&G have agreed
29 Jan 07 |  Business
Profile: BA boss Willie Walsh
25 Jan 07 |  Business
BA strike peace talks to resume
29 Jan 07 |  Business
BA seeks talks to avert walk-out
22 Jan 07 |  Business

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