15-Mar-2010 9:20 AM

British Airways cabin crew to conduct seven day strike this month

British Airways cabin crew, represented by Unite, announced (12-Mar-2010) its intention to take strike action on 20-Mar-2010, 21-Mar-2010, 22-Mar-2010, 27-Mar-2010, 28-Mar-2010, 29-Mar-2010 and 30-Mar-2010. Details include:

  • Effect on BA operations: "Intending to operate a range of flights", adding, "not all our flights will be cancelled". The carrier is currently finalising flight schedules for the strike period and has temporarily stopped selling seats on all flights operating on the strike dates. The carrier added that subsidiary, franchise, codeshare and alliance services will operate as per the normal schedule. The carrier also stated that all services to/from London City and all long-haul services to/from London Gatwick will continue to operate normally, with the long-haul freighter programme also unaffected (although the short-haul freighter programme will run with a few changes); [more - British Airways] [more - British Airways Cargo]
  • BA response: The carrier stated it was "extremely disappointed" with the action, adding that proposals put forward by Unite fell "significantly short" of helping it reach its GBP60 million cost-saving target (Reuters, 12-Mar-2010). CEO, Willie Walsh, described the proposed strike as "another cold-blooded threat" to the carrier's passengers and accused the union of being blind to the challenges facing the carrier, adding that it "prefers to believe the earth is flat" (Scotland On Sunday, 13-Mar-2010). He added that the carrier needs to move away from its old, inefficient ways of operation, if long-term survival is to be ensured (Reuters, 12-Mar-2010);
  • Unite response: The union has urged the carrier to end the "needless war against its own workforce" and warned of the "dangerous folly" of using untrained staff to crew aircraft during the strike period; [more - Unite] [more - Unite additional comments] [more - Unite additioanl comments 2]
  • Estimated cost of strike action: Could cost BA approximately GBP20 million p/a, although this figure may be less due to the contingency plans that the carrier has in place, according to Davy Stockbrokers (Reuters, 12-Mar-2010);
  • Other carriers' responses: Flybe stated (12-Mar-2010) it would add capacity at London Gatwick, Southampton, Jersey, Aberdeen and Dusseldorf covering a number of UK/European routes; [more - Flybe]
  • Government response:
    • British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, urged all parties to resume talks to avoid the planned strike, stating, "I'm not only disappointed, but I want to see a resolution of this as quickly as possible" (Reuters, 12-Mar-2010). He added,  "it's in my view essential that the parties continue to talk now even at this eleventh hour. I hope they will do so, but I remind them of the danger and risk to the British economy of disruptive strikes going ahead;
    • British Transport Secretary, Andrew Adonis, urged cabin crew to call off the planned strikes, adding that the "stakes are incredibly high in this strike" and that they "threaten the very existence of British Airways" (BBC/Reuters, 15-Mar-2010). He also stated that the strikes were "totally unjustified";
    • Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, commented, "I am very, very clear that the two sides must get down and try and sort this out without inconveniencing the public or having any adverse impact on the economy" (Sky News, 14-Mar-2010). He added, "I'm very clear that strikes, particularly a strike like this just before the Easter break, is extremely damaging for the travelling public, of course it's damaging to the airline and I think people need to think long and hard about the consequences of what they do."

Unite: “Regrettably, management turned down a remarkable offer from the union which would have given the company everything it said it wanted while also meeting our members’ concerns...British Airways management finally submitted a formal offer of its own to Unite yesterday...It is right that cabin crew should be given the opportunity to consider this offer, although it falls short of what we believe is needed to address the legitimate concerns they have about crew complement and service delivery. Unite will therefore hold a consultative ballot of our cabin crew members to ascertain their view on the offer. We would anticipate getting the result of this consultation by the middle of next week. However, we are unable to recommend the offer, and are therefore also setting strike dates in accordance with the mandate the union has twice overwhelmingly secured from our members. Strikes are planned for March 20, 21 and 22 and further on March 27, 28, 29 and 30. There will be no strikes over the Easter period, as we already promised, but further industrial action will be called to take place after April 14 if the dispute has not been resolved...These have been very difficult negotiations – unnecessarily so, in my view. I represent a workforce which has repeatedly made it clear that it is proud of its company and prepared to make extraordinary sacrifices to see it succeed. The customers they care for have always been at the forefront of their concerns. But we have been faced with a management which at times has almost seemed to want a dispute,” Len McCluskey, Assistant General Secretary and lead negotiator with British Airways. Source: Company Statement, 12-Mar-2010.

British Airways: "Although we believe that the threat of strike action by Unite is highly regrettable and completely unjustified, we have been formulating contingency plans to protect our operations since the first threat of strike action was announced in December of last year. As a result, we expect to run a significant part of our operations normally," Company Statement, 12-Mar-2010.

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