17-May-2010 11:49 AM

British Airways and Unite to resume talks on 17-May-2010

UK's Acas announced (16-May-2010) British Airways and cabin crew union, Unite, will resume negotiations on 17-May-2010. The organisation last week made (14-May-2010) a formal invitation to the two parties to attend talks about the issues and to determine what processes may be needed to reach a settlement. Unite responded (14-May-2010) stating it is "ready to meet with BA under any auspices to try to find a solution". Ba also agreed to the talks (Reuters, 14-May-2010). However, Unite also stated it has no plans to cancel the strike action planned for this week due to volcanic ash-related flight disruptions (Bloomberg, 16-May-2010). [more - meeting invitation] [more - meeting confirmed] [more - Unite]

  • Government response: UK Government also now plans to intervene in the dispute, with new Transport Secretary, Philiip Hammond, planning to meet with BA and Unite separately this week (Reuters, 16-May-2010). The move came after British Airways pilots union, BALPA (British Airline Pilots' Association) announced (14-May-2010) it had written to the Transport Secretary and new Business Secretary Vince Cable asking them to intervene in the issue. The union warned "the unprecedented strikes announced by BA cabin crew for May and June will seriously threaten BA's ability to maintain the job security and terms and conditions of employees in all parts of the company"; [more]
  • British Airways response: BA also plans to take legal action against Unite on 17-May-2010 to prevent the strike, claiming there is an irregularity in the way the strike ballot was conducted (Reuters, 14-May-2010/BBC News, 16-May-2010). The carrier claims the union did not send everyone eligible to vote details of the exact breakdown of the ballot result (ABTN, 16-May-2010). The carrier also estimated in a statement to the High Court that the strike action will cost it GBP138 million, “even with the full implementation of contingency measures” (guardian.co.uk, 16-May-2010). Unite denied the carrier's allegations, stating it is confident it conducted the ballot “perfectly and in compliance with the law”;
  • Union response: Unite Joint General Secretary, Tony Woodley, stated BA is being “vindictive” in not agreeing to fully reinstate travel perks (BBC News, 16-May-2010). Mr Woodley stated the two had previously reached an in-principle agreement on pay and other issues. BA responsed stating it is trying to work with Unite. He added that he does not expect BA CEO, Willie Walsh, to change his mind regarding the issue and the union plans to launch another ballot in the near future over the dismissal of five cabin crew and the removal of travel concessions (guardian.co.uk, 16-May-2010). BA dismissed the allegations of unfair dismissal stating they were not related to the strike action.

Acas: "There is now an opportunity for the parties to seriously reflect on the issues and the implications of not reaching an agreement. We will be using all of our expertise in any way we can to help the parties reach a resolution," Peter Harwood, Chief Conciliator. Source: Acas, 16-May-2010.

BALPA: "The last three days have changed the face of British politics with erstwhile political opponents coming together for the common good. We call on Government to use that political momentum to help solve what are tired 1970s style industrial relations. Without some of that Cameron/Clegg magic this dispute will put the future of a great airline at risk and disrupt the lives of thousands of British families. Ministers could get Tony Woodley and Willie Walsh together this weekend and get this strike suspended whilst a solution is hammered out. BALPA stands ready to offer any help it can - we only need to be asked," Jim McAuslan, General Secretary. Source: BALPA, 14-May-2010.

Unite: “This is not about restructuring any more - it is about taking out activists at the expense of the travelling public. Settling this dispute now would not cost BA a single penny,” Tony Woodley, Joint General Secretary. Source: BBC News, 16-May-2010.

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