Page last updated at 20:19 GMT, Sunday, 21 March 2010

Unite union calls on BA board to restart negotiations

Grounded BA planes
Both sides of the dispute disagree on how effective the strike has been

The Unite union has appealed to the board of British Airways to try to resolve the increasingly bitter dispute between the airline and its cabin crew.

Joint general secretary Tony Woodley called on the chairman of BA to "stand up, take his responsibilities seriously and instigate [fresh] negotiations".

These talks would aim to avert next weekend's planned strikes, he said.

Cabin crew are into the second day of a three-day strike. They also plan to strike for four days from 27 March.

Mr Woodley attacked the "macho" management style of chief executive Willie Walsh and said it was time for the airline's chairman Martin Broughton and "sensible" directors to intervene.

But commentators suggested that Unite's appeal would have little effect, as BA's board would have given its backing to the airline's current negotiating position.

Despite Mr Woodley's call for negotiations, the BBC has learned that neither Unite nor BA has been in touch with the head of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) over the weekend.

Speaking on the BA website, Walsh praised staff who had come together to keep the "flag flying"

The TUC had been brokering peace talks between the two sides before the strike began on Saturday.

In a letter to union members released earlier on Sunday, Mr Woodley told crew to "stay strong... BA must understand that capitulation is not on the menu".

Unite has accused BA of intimidating and bullying crew, allegations that BA "utterly rejects".

Extra flights

On the second day of action, both sides of the dispute disagreed about how effective the strike has been.

Unite said only nine of 1,100 cabin crew reported at Heathrow on Sunday and that the vast majority of planes taking off were without crew.

The union said BA's Terminal 5 at Heathrow was like a "ghost town" and argued that the airline's contingency plans were failing passengers.

Steve Turner says union members have been suspended for "speaking out on injustice"

But BA said at least 55% of Heathrow based cabin crew reported for duty and 97% turned up for work at Gatwick.

A BA spokesperson added that not only had the airline managed to fly all those services scheduled during the strike, but that it had also reinstated a number of flights as more staff had turned up to work than expected.

The airline said more than 60% of customers flew on Sunday.

In a video posted on BA's website and on YouTube, Mr Walsh said the atmosphere at Terminal 5 on Sunday was "very positive", with "very good numbers" of cabin crew turning up for work.

The company is advising customers to check the BA website to find out what extra flights will now be operating.

Lower pay

BA has been in negotiations with Unite for many months.

BA management, who are not taking pay cuts, or having their pension benefits reduced or having their role restructured say the workers must accept everything they say is fair

Workers are particularly angry that last November BA reduced the number of crew on long-haul flights and is introducing a two-year pay freeze from 2010.

The airline also proposed new contracts with lower pay for fresh recruits.

Unite says it accepts the need for BA to cut costs but is unhappy at the way in which the changes were brought in.

BA suffered a loss before tax of £342m for the nine months to the end of December 2009 and says it needs to cut costs in order to survive.

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