19
Mar
10

British Airways strike to go ahead as rail union votes for walkout

NEWS
British Airways strike to go ahead as rail union votes for walkout

Friday, March 19, 2010

NEWS

••• Final hour talks to avert a three-day strike by British Airways cabin crew collapsed today, just hours after Britain’s disgruntled rail workers voted to walk out.

There was misery for holidaymakers today as last ditch talks aimed at averting strikes by British Airways cabin crew collapsed.

Planned industrial action will go ahead from midnight after officials from the Unite union failed to reach a breakthrough with BA’s chief executive Willie Walsh in a bitter row over cost-cutting.

Unite’s joint leader, Tony Woodley, said he was “extremely disappointed” that the efforts to head off a three-day strike from tomorrow had failed and accused BA of wanting a “war” with the union.

He emerged from five hours of talks with Mr Walsh at the TUC headquarters in London today saying BA had tabled a worse offer than one withdrawn last week.

He said: “It is an absolute disgrace and an insult to our people that he (Mr Walsh) tabled a deal that reduced the amount of pay on offer.

“It is ridiculous to expect anyone to go to their membership with a worse offer.”

The union has announced another four-day walkout from March 27 which will spell misery for the great Easter getaway.

And the news came just hours after railway signal workers voted for the first national rail strike in 16 years, which is expected to add to the transport chaos.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union announced it had received an overwhelming support from workers for strike action – with more than half in favour of the national stoppage.

RMT said 54 per cent of its members backed strikes, with 77 per cent supporting industrial action short of a strike. Turnout in the ballot was 71 per cent.

Maintenance workers belonging to the RMT union have already voted to go on strike in protest at the 1,500 job losses at Network Rail.

The RMT’s executive will meet next Thursday to consider its next move, warning that action will be called if there is no progress in the dispute.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “Once again in this ballot RMT members have shown that they back the union’s campaign against Network Rail’s cuts programme and the assault on jobs and working conditions that even the Government’s own regulator, the Office of Rail Regulation, has said will have severe safety implications out on the tracks.

“Nobody should be under any illusions about just how determined RMT members are to win our fight against Network Rail’s cuts programme and to stop this reckless gamble with rail safety.

“Over 150 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion opposing Network Rail’s cuts plans and have urged the Government to intervene to call a halt to this jobs carnage on the tracks.

“RMT remains committed to reaching a negotiated settlement with Network Rail based on protecting safety-critical jobs and safe working practices. With the combination of the strike mandates, political and public pressure the focus is now on the company to pull back from the brink and reverse their cuts programme.”

Yesterday RMT officials met executives at Network Rail (NR), which is seeking to cut jobs and change working practices to allow more maintenance work to be carried out at weekends.

The company described the talks as “professional” and “business-like”, and the RMT negotiators will report back to the union’s executive today.

Members of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association have also voted in favour of industrial action, threatening the biggest outbreak of industrial unrest on the railways for more than a decade.

NR has said 1,100 workers have already volunteered for redundancy and the “vast majority” of the 1,500 cuts will be achieved without the need for compulsory lay-offs.

The firm said it believed it could keep trains running in the event of a strike by maintenance workers, adding that it was not prepared to have the RMT “hold the country to ransom”.

NR placed full-page adverts in national newspapers yesterday, warning that strikes would be “totally unjustified”.

Cabin crew strike
Unite, the trade union that represents the majority of British Airways (BA) cabin crew, has announced its intention to take strike action from 20 to 22 March and 27 to 30 March 2010.
Updated information including some cancellations for flights departing on 23 and 24 March 2010

• Source(s): U.K. Press, ITN & British Airways
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