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Tue, Jun 29, 2010 - Page 10 News List

Trade union delays BA strike ballot

NEGOTIATIONSThe union’s members will consider a new deal over the next three weeks. The proposal still doesn’t address staff travel perks, a key bone of contention


The Unite trade union is to postpone a strike ballot of British Airways cabin crew after receiving a peace offer from the airline, it emerged on Sunday.

The union’s joint general secretary, Tony Woodley, said it would be “suicide” to push ahead with a poll without allowing 11,000 flight attendants to consider the proposal.

The move means it is unlikely that BA passengers will see their travel plans disrupted in the coming months.

“Not to consult our members on this final offer would be suicide,” Woodley said. “And to do that, we have to postpone our ballot.”

“As a consequence of the company’s last and final offer, the union and its representatives will have no choice but to delay our vote in order to allow our members to consult the offer. The company has made it clear that the offer on the table will be removed if the strike ballot starts on Tuesday [today],” he said.

However, Woodley said he could not recommend the BA proposal to members because it did not fully reinstate the staff travel perks stripped from strikers who joined a wave of walkouts in March.

Indicating that the offer would have been accepted had it ­reinstated staff travel, he said: “The fact that the travel is not back in full makes the possibility of a recommendation nil. It makes the certainty of a yes uncertain.”

BA said it welcomed the Unite statement, adding: “We believe our offer is fair and reasonable and provides a genuine opportunity to end this dispute.”

The consultative ballot on whether or not to accept the proposal is expected to begin this week, and could last for up to three weeks.

The proposal makes some concessions by offering cabin crew a minimum allowance payment, rather than the flat fee that had been offered before. However, it does not reverse the staffing cuts that triggered the dispute last year.

Woodley said the proposal was an “interesting” move that would protect members from the so-called new fleet strategy that will see newly recruited flight attendants fly on a separate fleet of aircraft on lower pay and different contractual conditions.

“There is no doubt that this is an interesting change that will allow members to know that, with or without new fleet, they have a contractual guarantee of earnings in the future,” he said.

Woodley added that the failure to reinstate staff travel would “fester” within the company, and criticized the BA chief executive, Willie Walsh, for refusing to relent on the issue.

Duncan Holley, the secretary of Bassa, Unite’s main cabin crew branch, warned that a failure to reinstate staff travel could influence the outcome of the consultative vote.

Unite and Bassa had earmarked Aug. 3 as a possible start date for strike action, but union sources now believe walkouts will not take place until September or October if the BA deal is rejected in the consultative ballot and, in a subsequent strike vote, flight attendants vote for industrial action.

Meanwhile, Boeing workers in St. Louis have agreed to a contract with the plane manufacturer, avoiding a strike that would have gone into effect yesterday if the deal had been rejected.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said the contract passed on Sunday by a vote of 1,237 to 838.

The union had said its workers in St. Louis were prepared to strike starting at midnight yesterday if the vote had failed.

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