Page last updated at 00:35 GMT, Wednesday, 28 October 2009

BA to meet unions over cut plans

British Airways plane
BA says it needs to make changes

British Airways is set to hold talks with unions later aimed at averting a dispute with BA's check-in workers and other staff who deal with customers.

Officials from the Unite and GMB unions will meet airline management to discuss planned job losses and cost cutting.

Unite has already announced a ballot on industrial action among almost 14,000 cabin crew in protest at the imposition of new employment contracts next month.

BA plans to cut 3,700 jobs in addition to the 2,500 it has shed since 2008.

'Beggars belief'

Negotiations with the check-in staff ended without agreement in the summer. Wednesday's meeting is being seen as an attempt to get talks back on track.

BA said chief executive Willie Walsh would lead the meeting for the carrier - but that this was "the normal process".

National officer of Unite, Steve Turner, said there were fears that BA's airport staff would be outsourced, rosters changed and a new, lower rate of pay introduced for new employees.

He also claimed that BA was looking to cut 1,250 jobs among that section of the workforce, including about 800 at Heathrow.

"It beggars belief that the airline would want to cause conflict with workers who are so customer-focused and proud of their jobs that it is just unacceptable," Mr Turner said.

'Essential' changes

Earlier this week, BA said it was "disappointed" by the Unite union's decision to ballot cabin crew about whether to take strike action.

Unions and management have been in talks since the announcement of cost-cutting measures earlier this month.

BA denied it would be cutting pay, and said current cabin crew remained the best paid in the country "by some way" and that some would get pay rises.

BA expects to report a big loss for this year, which will be its second in a row.

It has said that the changes are essential to its survival.

In common with most airlines, it has been hit by falling passenger numbers in the recession as well as the volatility of fuel prices.

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