27-May-2010 10:45 AM

British Airways increases flight schedule for second five-day strike, enters negotiations with Unite

British Airways announced (26-May-2010) it will be increasing its flying schedule during Unite’s second five-day strike from 30-May-2010 to 03-Jun-2010 after more cabin crew than expected decided to work during this week’s industrial action. [more]

  • Schedule: the airline will be increasing its London Heathrow Airport long-haul schedule to more than 70% of flights (up from more than 60% this week). It will be increasing its Heathrow short-haul schedule to more than 55% of flights (up from more than 50% this week). The airline will continue to fly to every short-haul destination on its network. Flights from London Gatwick and London City airports will operate as normal. Flights operated by subsidiary OpenSkies between Paris and New York and Paris and Washington will operate as normal. Flights operated by British Airways franchise partners, Comair in South Africa and Sun Air in Scandinavia, will operate as normal. Flights operated by other carriers, including oneworld partners, which have a BA codeshare flight number will operate as normal. All dedicated cargo freighter services continue to operate as normal;
  • Continegency plans: At this stage British Airways expects to fly more than 75% of customers who hold a booking between 30-May-2010 and 03-Jun-2010. This equates to around 65,000 customers flying each day. The remainder will be able to use seats the carrier has secured on more than 50 airlines to reach their destination, if they still wish to travel or be rebooked on an alternative BA flight departing within the next 355 days. Refunds are also available for customers whose flights have been cancelled. The airline will continue to lease up to eight aircraft from other UK or European airlines to supplement its short-haul schedule at Heathrow;
  • Operations so far: Unite claims only 68% of long-haul and 59% of short-haul flights from Heathrow were operated on 25-May-2010, suggesting support for the strike is building (Reuters, 26-May-2010);
  • Negotiations: British Airways and Unite held a new round of negotiations on 26-May-2010 but failed to reach an agreement (Associated Press, 26-May-2010). Negotiations are to resume on 28-May-2010. Unite reportedly reofferred to cancel the strike action if BA reinstated travel concessions to its members, who participated in the previous strike action (Financial Times, 27-May-2010). BA CEO, Willie Walsh, offered to reinstate the concessions if the staff were treated as new employees. The carrier stated the union has only offered to suspend the strike action, not cancel it altogether. It added the union is only waiting for travel concessions to be restored before attempting to alter other parts of an earlier offered deal;
  • Further strike action: Joint General Secretary, Tony Woodley, stated before Wednesday’s talks that the negotiations would “not be easy”, while fellow General Secretary, Derek Simpson, claims Mr Walsh has no plans to reach an agreement with the union but believes the CEO will “break”. Unite stated its members may now be balloted on plans to extend the strike, threatening a further 10 days of action (Reuters, 26-May-2010/Bloomberg, 27-May-2010);
  • Strike costs: Mr Woodley and Mr Simpson visited picket lines on 26-May-2010 to show their support for strikers. The union stated the strike is holding with crew determined to end the intimidation by the company as they fight to save their jobs. According to Unite, the strike has cost BA an estimated GBP70 million so far and could cost as much as GBP152 million, but revenue lost as passengers switch to other airlines during the peak summer season is yet to be costed; [more]
  • Legal action: British Airways stated it has no plans to appeal against last week's Court of Appeal decision to allow cabin crew to launch the industrial action but a lawsuit is on the cards (Sky News, 26-May-2010).

Unite: “He may not break this week, he may not break next week, but sooner or later he will. I don’t believe for one moment that he personally wants a settlement. He wants to be in a position where he can impose whatever he wants,” Derek Simpson, Joint General Secretary. Source: Bloomberg, 27-May-2010.

Unite: “The offer is on the table. He can have this strike suspended right now if he returns the travel concessions without the loss of seniority. That will allow us to conclude the other items of business, including justice for those 54 people who have been suspended,” Tony Woodley, Joint General Secretary. Source: Bloomberg, 27-May-2010.

British Airways: “The union would have been fully aware that the point of law over the communication of the strike ballot result would come to a full court case in due course. We have written to Unite to remind them to retain all relevant paperwork. This is standard legal procedure for all pending court cases,” Company Statement. Source: Sky News, 26-May-2010.

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