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No BA-union peace talks planned, strike to go ahead

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Air Cargo  

The Unite union said British Airways cabin crew’s four-day strike would go ahead and that no peace talks were set, as travellers brace themselves for more travel chaos before the busy Easter holiday period.

“No talks are set and strikes begin again,” a Unite spokeswoman told Reuters.

“We remain in touch with the Trades Union Congress (TUC) regarding the possibility of talks but nothing is planned at present. All BA strike-breaking statistics should not be regarded as credible after last weekend’s smokescreen.”

BA put a proposal forward last week, which it said could form the basis of an agreement, but has since refused to put the initial offer back on the negotiating table or reinstate travel perks it has taken away from strikers.

BA’s Chief Executive Willie Walsh said he was ready to meet unions to discuss a dispute with cabin crew but had no plans to do so before the new strike begins.

The dispute, coupled with plans by transport workers to hold Britain’s first national rail strike in 16 years in April, have created a headache for Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose Labour Party faces a battle to win re-election in the next few weeks.

Walsh said the airline would fly three-quarters of the passengers booked with BA over the weekend.

Shares in BA were 0.6 percent lower at 252.5 pence by 1135 GMT, against a 0.3 percent fall in the FTSE 100, valuing the airline at around 3 billion pounds ($4.45 billion).

Unions, who have already held a three-day strike, plan a second stoppage in a dispute that centers on cost-cutting plans and staffing levels. The opposition Conservatives have criticised Labor’s financial dependence on unions linked to some of the strikes.

“There are no plans,” Walsh told BBC News 24 when asked if he was going to talk to unions.

“I met with (general secretary) Brendan Barber of the Trades Union Congress earlier this week. Brendan asked me if I would be available. I told him I would. I’m available at any stage if he gets the trade union to agree to meet,” he said.

Costly Strike

Unite union joint general secretary Tony Woodley has urged BA to return to talks, saying a settlement is possible.

The airline said the three-day stoppage a week ago cost it about 7 million pounds a day, but had not broadly affected its profits outlook.

“We will this weekend fly about 75 percent of the people who are booked with us. About 18 percent we’ve managed to rebook with other airlines. But about 7 percent of the customers who have booked with us have had their holidays destroyed. We’ve not been able to accommodate them on flights,” he said.

He said he had not spoken to Brown about the strike since last weekend. “Gordon Brown is clearly concerned. (He) would like to see BA flying again and has been ... encouraging both sides to get together and reach agreement,” he said.

The dispute began because BA, which has 12,000 cabin crew, wants to save an annual 62.5 million pounds to help cope with falling demand, volatile fuel prices and greater competition. (Reuters)