23
May
10

British Airways strike to go ahead despite last-gasp peace offer

NEWS
British Airways strike to go ahead despite last-gasp peace offer

Sunday, May 23, 2010

NEWS

••• British Airways cabin crew will go ahead with a wave of strikes from tomorrow after hopes of a last-minute deal collapsed.

The British Airways cabin crew strike set to start at midnight will be suspended if Willie Walsh reinstates staff travel perks, Unite joint leader Tony Woodley has said.

In a last-minute appeal to the BA chief executive outside the union’s HQ in London, Mr. Woodley said he was ‘making a goodwill gesture to the public’.

He added: ‘As a sign of good faith, I’m making this offer now to Willie Walsh.

‘Turn round and reinstate our people’s travel without the unnecessary, vindictive removal of their service and this union will call off tonight’s strike and suspend the action.’

Earlier, it was announced the first of three five-day walkouts will go ahead after a ‘catastrophic’ breakdown in negotiations.

It was thought Mr. Woodley had told union officials there was no chance of resuming talks after the previous meeting was dramatically halted by a Socialist Workers Party protest.

Union sources claimed Mr. Walsh withdrew from further talks this morning – but the airline has said it is ‘willing, available and able’ to return to the negotiating table.

However, now Mr. Woodley has said a deal is ‘very close’ and ‘an agreement in principle on the business issues’ had been reached.

In a sideswipe at the protesters, Mr. Woodley said ‘fantastic progress’ had been made before the meeting was ‘rudely interrupted by our friends from the SWP’.

Only this morning, the BA boss had said there was still ‘an opportunity’ to avoid a strike – but warned contingency plans are in place.
‘British Airways will be flying tomorrow. We will not be grounded by the actions of a tiny minority who are clearly out of touch with reality,’ he told BBC 1’s Andrew Marr Show.

‘If the strike goes ahead at midnight we are ready.’

Speaking outside Heathrow Airport, Sky News’ Simon Newton said: ‘BA says it plans to operate 60% of long-haul and 50% of short-haul flights out of Heathrow.

‘The advice for passengers is to check with the British Airways website.’

There was a further twist when BA accused Unite’s other joint leader, Derek Simpson, of giving a ‘running commentary’ of the discussions via Twitter.

Mr. Walsh told Marr he had been ‘shocked and angry’ to learn of the tweets, adding: ‘That really does undermine the discussions that took place.
‘If it wasn’t for Derek’s actions and clearly then the mob storming the building, we may have been able to make significant progress.’

The messages which appeared on Twitter were posted under the name derekamicus next to a picture of Mr. Simpson.

One read: ‘Willie and Tony locking horns over accusations of unequal treatment of allegations of bullying.’

It was followed by another which read: ‘Arguments over the 8 sacked workers,’ and then: ‘Fear of more sackings to come.’

But Mr. Woodley said: ‘Never mind travelling the airwaves on Twitter, let’s deal with the issues that matter to the British travelling public.’
» Check your flight information here: British Airways
• Source(s): Sky News / British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. (BSkyB) / News Corp. and British Airways PLC

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