Page last updated at 21:38 GMT, Monday, 22 February 2010

British Airways cabin crew back strike action

Unite's Len McCluskey: "There is a real deep sense of grievance"

British Airways passengers face the risk of strikes after cabin crew voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action over pay and conditions.

Unite said that 78.77% of the 11,691 ballot papers issued were returned. Of those 80.7% (7,482) supported taking action with 1,789 voting against it.

Unite said it would not be announcing any strike dates as it hoped to continue negotiations with BA.

The airline warned: "We will not allow Unite to ruin this company."

BA said some progress had been made during recent talks but said it would do everything it could to protect customers' travel plans should strikes take place.

The union's general secretary Len McCluskey said the ballot result was "a clear indication of the deep sense of grievance that our members feel".

"We can only hope that BA management will now recognise the only way to resolve this is through negotiation, not through litigation and certainly not through intimidation," he said.

British Airways plane in flight

Support for the strike was lower than seen in an earlier ballot, which had a higher turnout and which saw 92.4% of those voting backing a strike. However that vote, which would have led to stoppages over Christmas, was deemed illegal by the High Court.

Legally, the union must give a week's notice if it plans to take action - meaning strikes could begin from the first week of March.

Unite has already pledged that there will not be stoppages over the Easter period.

BA has threatened to take away generous travel perks for workers who do strike.

Disruption

The vote result comes as passengers are suffering delays and cancellations due to industrial disputes elsewhere in Europe.

On Monday, 4,000 pilots at German airline Lufthansa began four days of strike action.

The carrier has cancelled about 3,000 flights and has warned of delays both domestically and internationally.

Meanwhile unions representing French air traffic controllers have announced a four-day strike, beginning on Tuesday, that will result in hundreds of flights in and out of Paris' Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports being cancelled.

Cutting costs

HAVE YOUR SAY
I simply urge that the BA cabin crew compare themselves with other airlines vis-a-vis pay and conditions. They will see that they are well off in many ways, so what is their gripe?
Ian Cheese, London

Earlier this month, British Airways announced it made a pre-tax loss of £50m ($79m) in the three months to December 2009, down from the £122m it lost a year earlier.

The changes which prompted the strike ballots were part of cost-cutting measures at the airline.

In November, BA reduced the number of cabin crew on long haul flights from 15 to 14 and brought in a two-year pay freeze from 2010.

The airline has also proposed new contracts for fresh recruits and newly-promoted staff. These include a single on-board management grade, no seniority, promotion on merit, and pay set at the market rate plus 10%.

This would still see new recruits paid significantly less than current staff, however.

On Friday, a High Court judge ruled that BA was within its rights to make the changes to save money.

The union had claimed it was not consulted properly, but the judge said the "less-than-extreme changes" including freezing pay and cutting crew on long-haul flights, were not unreasonable.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Observer BA cabin crew vote to strike - 1 hr ago
Financial Times Industrial disputes grip European airlines - 1 hr ago
The Scotsman Talks planned to head off BA strike - 3 hrs ago
The Independent BA vote to strike in protracted row over staff levels - 7 hrs ago
Times Online BA cabin crew give union big mandate for action - 12 hrs ago



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