BA and union fail to agree as strike nears

By Matt Falloon and Kate Holton

LONDON (BestGrowthStock) – British Airways (BAY.L: ) cabin crew were bound for a five-day strike this week after the airline and union leaders failed to resume talks on Sunday, blaming each other for the communication breakdown.

Without a last gasp deal, the first of three five-day protests planned in response to BA’s cost-cutting drive will go ahead on Monday.

Negotiations to avoid the strike broke down on Saturday evening after protesters gate-crashed the talks.

BA and Unite union chiefs had hoped to resume talks on Sunday but none were arranged and both sides took to the airwaves to argue their points, making it all but inevitable that the strike will go ahead.

Unite co-leader Tony Woodley offered to call off the industrial action if BA reinstated travel allowances for striking staff.

“Let’s stop the inconvenience to the British traveling public … Let’s get the travel back on for our people and let’s finalize a deal hopefully over these next couple of days,” Woodley told reporters in London.

The airline was unmoved.

“This position reinforces our view that (cabin crew union) Bassa, at the center of this dispute, is not serious in trying to come to a negotiated agreement with British Airways — and that Tony cannot control Bassa,” BA said in a statement.

“We call on him to call off the strike action and return to the table with (mediator) ACAS to finish the discussions that started yesterday.”


British Airways Chief Executive Willie Walsh said earlier on Sunday he was hopeful of a deal in the long-running dispute over the airline’s cost-cutting drive but said the company had contingency plans in place to keep services running.

“BA will survive and we will be stronger because we are tackling the core issues,” he told the BBC. “We will not allow Unite, the union, to ground BA.”

The airline said all flights at London Gatwick and London City airports would operate as normal.

“At Heathrow we expect to operate more than 60 percent of long haul services and more than 50 percent of short haul flights and we will add to that schedule where we can,” BA said.

Walsh said he had also been angered by the union’s joint leader Derek Simpson who had sent out live updates on the Twitter microblogging site during Saturday’s talks.

The airline is trying to get a deal with Unite to save 62.5 million pounds ($89.81 million) a year.

Unions are particularly angered by disciplinary action taken by BA against striking staff and the removal of travel perks.

On Friday, BA reported its biggest annual loss since privatization in 1987 due to the recession, bad weather and industrial disputes.

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(Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton and Louise Heavens)

BA and union fail to agree as strike nears