British Airways strike to go ahead after talks collapse

March 19, 2010 by Post Team 

British Airways strike to go ahead after talks collapse:LONDON: Last-ditch talks aimed at preventing a strike by some 12,000 British Airways (BA) cabin crew on Friday collapsed, leaving thousands of passengers facing chaos within hours.

After a bitter public war of words, BA chief executive Willie Walsh and the joint leader of Britain’s biggest trade union Unite, Tony Woodley, began face-to-face talks Thursday to try to resolve their differences.

But after their failure to reach agreement, three days of strikes looked set to start from Saturday, followed by a second walkout from March 27 for four days, aimed at causing disruption in the busy Easter holiday period.

“It’s with great disappointment that I have to tell you all that negotiations have broken down,” Woodley told reporters. “The strike goes ahead at midnight tonight (Friday).”

He added: “This company does not want to negotiate, this company wants ultimately to go to war with my members.”

BA has vowed to keep at least 60 percent of passengers flying despite the action, using volunteer cabin crew and aircraft from other European airlines.

“It’s deeply regrettable that a proposal that we have tabled to Unite that I believe is fair… has not been accepted,” the airline’s chief executive Willie Walsh said outside the London venue of the talks.

“BA will be flying tomorrow and will continue to fly throughout these periods of industrial action,” he added.

Walsh said he had “no concerns” about threatened action from unions in France and Germany in sympathy with Unite.

He added that BA’s offer to the union would remain on the table until strike action started.

The bitter dispute has been sparked by proposed changes to crew numbers and working practices.

It centres on proposed cost-cutting changes to working conditions by the airline which it says will lead to the introduction of a “second tier workforce on poorer pay and conditions”.

Last month, BA said it expected to notch up a record loss in the current financial year due to weak demand for air travel.

It made better than expected pre-tax losses of 50 million pounds (57 million euros, 79 million dollars) in the last three months of 2009.

BA took out a full page advertisement in national newspapers Friday saying the strike was “unjustified” but insisting its “door remains open” to Unite.

“We have a significant number of cabin crew who don’t believe in the strike and will continue to work,” it said. “They will be supported by countless volunteers from across our airline.”

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