Business

Unite to ballot on fresh BA strike

A BA plane takes off over a Unite picket line near Heathrow Airport during a previous strike in May this year
Image caption The dispute between British Airways and the Unite union has now been running for more than a year

The dates of the next strike ballot by British Airways (BA) cabin crew members have been announced by the Unite union.

The latest twist in the ongoing row, Unite says the ballot will start on 21 December and end on 21 January.

Unite said the vote is over five remaining issues its members have with BA, including the immediate restoration of staff travel concessions, and the conclusion of disciplinary cases.

BA said in a statement that Unite's behaviour "remains dysfunctional".

The airline added that if a fresh strike was to go ahead in the new year, it was confident it would be able to run normal timetables from London Gatwick and City airports.

While at Heathrow it said it would "aim to run a substantial proportion" of its short-haul services, and "100% of our long haul operation".

'Damaging brand'

Unite said the other issues covered in the ballot included the restoration of all earnings docked from crew members who were genuinely off sick during this year's strikes, and a "full and proper discussion of the trade union facilities agreement at the company".

The union is also asking its members to consider the introduction of mixed cabin crew teams, with workers on different terms and conditions without Unite's agreement.

Unite first said last month that it would ballot its members on fresh industrial action, but it has taken until now for it to announce the dates.

Unite joint general secretary, Tony Woodley said: "British Airways knows what it must do to end this dispute.

"Four of the five outstanding issues are no cost issues for BA ,and are about treating cabin crew with dignity, respect and ending the climate of persecution.

"The fifth item is about stopping BA from imposing a near minimum waged workforce and killing BA's brand."

He added that while Unite was still open to fresh talks with BA, the company "must appreciate the strength of feeling across the airline about how badly they've handled this dispute".

'Reneged'

Unite and BA had appeared to have reached an agreement in October to end the dispute, but it quickly broke down with each blaming the other.

BA added in its statement on Tuesday night that: "Unite struck a deal in October and reneged on it. The union agreed last week to hold further talks with us, but has instead issued a strike ballot.

"Industrial action would be a grossly disproportionate response to the issues that Unite continues to press."

The dispute between BA and Unite started in November of last year, when BA reduced the number of cabin crew staff on long-haul flights from 15 to 14, and introduced a two-year pay freeze from 2010.

Following the first strikes in March of this year, BA removed the travel concessions of workers who took part in the industrial action, with some also facing disciplinary action. Unite said these moves widened the issues involved in the dispute.

In total BA cabin crew staff have taken 22 days of strike action this year, costing the airline more than £150m, as continuing talks between the airline and Unite have failed to make a breakthrough.

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