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Page last updated at 06:44 GMT, Friday, 21 May 2010 07:44 UK

Walsh: 'No apologies for going to court'

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British Airways' chief executive Willie Walsh has defended his decision to go to court to try to stop a series of strikes by the Unite union.

Asked on the Today programme if resorting to the law had been the wrong approach, Mr Walsh said "I make no apologies for going to the court in the first place.

"I have made it clear that I will look at every option, examine every avenue that is available to us to try and protect our customers and protect our business against the actions of a dysfunctional union who clearly are out of touch with reality and reality is best demonstrated by the financial results that we have released today."

He was speaking as BA posted record annual losses of £531 million for the year ending 31 March. The airline, which is facing a series of strikes starting on Monday, says it has been hit by recession, a harsh winter and a first wave of industrial action in March.

Yesterday the Unite won a landmark ruling against a legal block on its planned strikes over pay rates and working conditions.

Mr Walsh told Today presenter James Naughtie that the two sides had now reached a "substantive agreement", but this was being blocked by the branch of the union which represents cabin crew.

He added that he had talked to Tony Woodley, Unite's joint general-secretary: "Tony and I had another conversation last night and we will be talking to one another over the weekend and, you know, I will hope that common sense will prevail but the critical issue is, you know, Tony Woodley and I could sign an agreement.

"But unless that agreement has the support of the people at the centre of this dispute, unless they are committed to implementing it and to deliver on the agreements and deliver on the commitments that are being made, we will face these issues again."

Responding to Mr Walsh, Unite's Derek Simpson said that he was willing to talk with BA over the weekend. But he added that there was "a total lack of confidence" between the union and management. He said BA had exhibited a "macho stance" on staff travel arrangements and claimed that some of his members had been suspended for cheering after yesterday's court decision.

And Mr Simpson added that that Bassa, the arm of the union which represents cabin crew, were not "headbangers" but hard-working people who were fighting to secure proper conditions for their members.


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