Page last updated at 21:19 GMT, Friday, 19 March 2010

BA cabin crew strike to go ahead as talks collapse

Willie Walsh: "We've made every effort to resolve this"

A strike by British Airways cabin crew will go ahead after talks between the airline and the Unite union collapsed.

The three-day walkout begins at midnight, with a further four days of action set to commence on 27 March.

BA chief Willie Walsh said the strike was "deeply regrettable". The airline has said 65% of passengers will reach their destination during the action.

Unite's joint general secretary, Tony Woodley, said that BA "ultimately wants to go to war with this union".

BA said there could also be disruption to flights between the two strikes.

Separately, railway signal workers have voted in favour of strikes in a row over jobs and safety.

'Serve passengers'

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "The Prime Minister believes that this strike is in no-one's interest and will cause unacceptable inconvenience to passengers.

"He urges the strike be called off immediately. He also urges BA's management and workforce to get together without delay to resolve what is a dispute about jobs and wages."

A total of 1,100 BA flights out of the 1,950 scheduled to operate during the first three-day strike will be cancelled.

Unite's Tony Woodley: "I'm extremely disappointed for our members"

At Gatwick, all long-haul flights and more than half of short-haul flights are expected to operate as normal.

At Heathrow, more than 60% of long-haul flights will operate, though only 30% of short-haul flights are expected to do so, with the help of aircraft leased from eight rival airlines.

"Tens of thousands of BA people stand ready to serve our passengers and BA will be flying and will continue to fly through these periods of industrial action," Mr Walsh said.

He added he remained available for talks on reaching a "sensible" agreement, but said that loss-making BA must cut costs.

An offer which the carrier had put to the union, but which had not been accepted, would be "formally withdrawn once industrial action commences", Mr Walsh said.

Earlier, BA said that any staff who took part in strike action would lose perks, including heavily discounted travel fares.

Pay demand

The airline and the union held talks late into the night on Thursday and resumed discussions on Friday.

Mr Woodley had called on BA to put an earlier deal to end the strikes "back on the table" - a move he said would allow him to call off the strike while union members considered it.

BA is now run by accountants
BA cabin crew member

That settlement offer had included commitments on working hours and annual pay rises in exchange for the cabin crew workers agreeing to BA's planned £62.5m of cost cuts.

But after announcing that the strike would go ahead, Mr Woodley said the airline "did not want to negotiate".

"I am extremely disappointed for the travelling public and our members, but this union will now support our members, while remaining open for talks with the company," he said.

"It is an absolute disgrace and an insult to our people that [Mr Walsh] tabled a deal that reduced the amount of pay on offer.

"It is ridiculous to expect anyone to go to their membership with a worse offer."

Mr Walsh said suggestions that he wanted to break the union were "absolute nonsense".

"We have spent 13 months in negotiations. BA has been at the table, ready, willing and able to negotiate. If people want a scapegoat, they will have to look somewhere else."

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