Page last updated at 11:34 GMT, Monday, 29 March 2010 12:34 UK

BA strike: Airline using 'world's most expensive crew'

Tony Woodley
Unite said "strike-breakers" were prolonging the dispute

A war of words between British Airways and the Unite union has intensified as a strike by cabin crew continues into the third day of the four-day stoppage.

Unite accused BA of using the world's most expensive cabin crew, after drafting in pilots to replace staff who had gone on strike.

Unite said that pilots on £120,000 a year were now doing the job of cabin crew on annual salaries of £15,000.

BA said the claim was "disingenuous" as very few pilots earned £120,000.

In a statement, Unite said the airline had gone to "enormous lengths" to divert hundreds of pilots from their everyday jobs to work as cabin crew.

Unite said many pilots earned £166 an hour - or £120,000 a year - compared with crew who are paid £16 an hour - or £15,000 annually - after five years' experience. Unite says its cabin crew figure is based on legally-agreed contracts to fly 900 hours a year, plus benefits and allowances.


Len McLuskey, Unite assistant general secretary, said: "Far from cutting cabin crew costs, BA is now operating the world's most expensive crew in a bid to break its far cheaper, world-class workforce.

"Strike-breakers - whether they are pilots or other BA colleagues - acting as cabin crew are misguided. Their actions are not solving this crisis, they are helping prolong it," he said.

A BA spokesman said Unite was "being disingenuous because only pilots at the very top earn that sort of money. What's more, it's not just pilots who are volunteering to work as cabin crew, but ground staff and people from other operations."

According to BA's timetable on its website, the airline on Monday will be forced to cancel 319 - or 28.6% - of outbound and inbound flights, out of a total of 1,115 services.

At BA's all-important Heathrow hub, 263 - or 41% - flights will be cancelled out of a total of 642 services. Flights to and from Gatwick, London City, and Birmingham airports will be unaffected.

More flights

The airline's chief executive, Willie Walsh, said in an internal message to staff on Sunday that 63% of crew rostered to work had reported for duty on Saturday, 6% more than during the previous weekend's industrial action.

More than 60,000 passengers were flown by BA on Saturday on 470 flights, compared with 43,000 on 350 flights last Saturday, he said.

"Our operations have been strong and the number of crew reporting for duty means we are flying our expected contingency schedule," Mr Walsh said.

Unite disputed BA's figures, saying that only 359 crew reported for duty, including 100 international employees who were not on strike.

BA has pledged to carry about 75% of its passengers during the current strikes and reported that more flights ran over the weekend than during the previous walkout.

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Reuters UK BA strike enters last day; rail talks continue - 1 hr ago BA pay slips 'sped up to show loss' - 6 hrs ago
Telegraph Threat of indefinite BA stoppage as mood hardens among strikers - 7 hrs ago
People's Daily Online War of words intensifies in BA strike, more union walkouts likely - 7 hrs ago
Daily Star Members levied to help BA strikersFull Story - 12 hrs ago

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