British Airways tries its best to avert cabin crew strike

Thousands of British Airways cabin crew plan to stage a three-day strike following the breakdown of talks aimed at resolving a row over sickness absence, pay and staffing, their union said Sunday.

Flight attendants will walk out Jan. 29-31, the Transport and General Worker’s Union said. The union notified BA of its intention to call out cabin crew on strike again Feb. 6-8 and Feb. 12-14 if the dispute is not resolved.

British Airways criticized the union, saying the strikes would cause massive disruption for passengers and further damage to the airline, which has been hit in recent months by security and weather problems, the AP reports.

British Airways said on Monday it had asked conciliation service ACAS to help resolve a dispute with cabin crew.

BA has said it will allow passengers booked to fly with it between January 29 and February 16 to change the date of their trip, Reuters reports.

Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of the union, accused BA of failing to enter into a dialogue with the union on compromise proposals, accusing them of provoking the strike action.

”Our members are fed up with being bullied into coming to work when sick and with the divisions caused by poverty levels of new entrant pay scales,” Dromy said.

”They see customer care being cut and the airline’s reputation damaged by bungling management.

”BA now have seven days to take their responsibility seriously and work with the union to avoid disruption to services and inconvenience to passengers. We are ready to resume talks at any time.”

The cabin crew have accused management of forcing them to work when they were ill, following the implementation of a new policy on sickness pay that was introduced 18 months ago.

BA chief executive Willie Walsh said the company was disappointed by the union’s decision but remained focussed on finding a solution that it hoped would prevent the strikes.

”Despite its public rhetoric, the union in private remains resolute in its refusal to talk with us about any degree of change for our cabin crew,” Walsh said.

Walsh insisted the airline had not imposed any changes about sickness absence but stressed it wanted to negotiate new ways of working with its cabin crew to help put the airline in better shape to succeed in the ”highly competitive” industry.

Walsh said the union had made additions to its earlier demands over a return to the ”excessive” levels of sickness absence. He said the union was also demanding a ”significant” pay rise for its members.

In a statement, the airline said its new sickness policy had reduced average levels of absence among cabin crew from 22 days a year to 12 days.

strike next week will be the first official industrial action by cabin crews since July 1997. That strike cost the airline 127 million pounds ($250 million) over three days. British Airways has faced a series of disruptions in the past year, including union rejection of its pension proposal, security alerts at London's Heathrow airport and foggy weather.

Shares of British Airways fell as much as 13.75 pence, or 2.5 percent, to 530.75 pence and were down 1.6 percent at 11:31 a.m. in London. The stock has gained 72 percent over the last 12 months as Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh cut costs, Bloomberg reports.

Source: agencies

Prepared by Alexander Timoshik

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Author`s name Alex Naumov