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Wed, Dec 16, 2009 - Page 10 News List

BA travelers face Christmas strike misery

‘SENSELESS’ A workers’ union announced that its members would strike for 12 days between next Tuesday and Jan. 2, clipping the carrier’s wings during the holidays

AFP , LONDON

Hundreds of thousands of British Airways (BA) passengers face travel misery over the busy Christmas and New Year period after cabin crew voted on Monday to strike over job cuts and pay.

Britain’s biggest union, Unite, said its members planned to strike for 12 days between next Tuesday and Jan. 2 — a decision BA chief executive Willie Walsh described as “senseless,” while also vowing to stand firm over job cuts.

The industrial action comes at a critical point for loss-making British Airways, which is slashing costs and attempting to merge with Spanish carrier Iberia in a desperate fight to stay competitive.

“After long discussions … we are planning to withdraw our labor for a period of 12 days starting [on] Dec. 22,” Unite said in a statement after staff voted 9-1 in favor of striking.

The announcement is a major blow for BA’s many passengers that are planning to fly worldwide with the British airline over the festive period. BA had carried 2.34 million passengers last month.

“British Airways is extremely disappointed that Unite is planning massive disruption for hundreds of thousands of our customers over the Christmas/New Year holiday period,” the airline said in a statement.

Walsh said that there was “no justification for threatening such extreme action,” adding: “It is very sad that they are seeking to use the Christmas holiday plans and family reunions of hundreds of thousands of people to try to pursue their case.”

The chief executive also insisted that BA “will not be reversing … changes to onboard crew numbers.”

In October, BA announced it was cutting 1,700 cabin crew positions and introducing a two-year pay freeze on staff keeping their jobs. A total of 10,288 cabin crew voted on the strike action, with 92.49 percent in favor of the proposal.

Unite said the decision to strike was not taken “lightly, especially during the financial strife that the company finds itself in.”

BA’s share price closed down 0.15 percent to 201 pence in the wake of the strike announcement. London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index, on which BA is traded, ended the day 1 percent higher.

BA last month announced that net losses quadrupled to £217 million (US$354.5 million) in the group’s first half, or six months to September.

Also See: Aviation industry group warns of more large losses

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