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British Airways Strikes Are Over

British Airways, union reach peace deal

May 12, 2011

The agreement reached between the airline and the Unite trade union was backed at a mass meeting of nearly 2000 members of the cabin crew branch, the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association.

It will now be put to a ballot of 9,000 cabin crew for final ratification. But with the deal having the backing of both the Unite leadership and local shop stewards, confirmation is considered to be a formality.

As a result of the vote another wave of strikes, which could have started next week, will not take place.

The deal brings to an end a damaging 18-month dispute which saw the airline’s reputation hit by 22 days of strikes and the cancellation of hundreds of flights, costing BA an estimated £150 million.

After months of deadlock the breakthrough came following changes at the top of both Unite and BA.

Keith Williams took over as BA’s chief executive in succession to the rather more abrasive Willie Walsh.

At the same time there has been a new man at the helm of Unite, Len McCluskey, although even before becoming General Secretary he was one of the union’s main negotiators.

Addressing cabin crew at a sports club just outside Heathrow Airport, Mr McLuskey paid a fulsome tribute to the new BA chief.

“I have found him to be a decent man, I have found him to be a genuine and honest man,” Mr McCluskey said.

The original dispute was triggered by BA’s demand for radical changes in working practices which, the airline said, were vital for its survival.

These changes have been in place for some time, with 1,000 crew taking voluntary redundancy and BA cutting one member staff from each long haul flight.

The union has also accepted the introduction of what is known as a “new fleet”, with recruits being employed on less generous terms than those in place for existing staff.

However, until the breakthrough, there had been an impasse on two issues, disciplinary action taken against those who went out on strike, which included the withdrawal of free and discounted flights.

Staff travel was a particularly sensitive issue for with many crew living abroad but working from British airports.

Under the agreement reached by negotiators the perk will be restored in full once the dispute is formally called off after the ballot.

Both sides have also reached a pay deal for the next two years with, subject to productivity, will see cabin crew receive increases of four and 3.5 per cent.

Disciplinary cases will be settled by binding arbitration.

Speaking after the vote, Mr McCluskey added: “A great deal of credit goes to the new chief executive, Keith Williams, he said he knew we want an honourable settlement.

“We always said that the dispute could only be resolved by negotiation, not througth litigation, not through confrontation and not through intimidation.”

BA welcomed the deal, “On behalf of our customers, we are very pleased the threat of industrial action has been lifted and that we have reached a point where we can put this dispute behind us,” a spokesman said.

“Our agreement with Unite involves acknowledgement by the union that the cost-saving structural changes we have made in cabin crew operations are permanent.

“We have also agreed changes that will modernise our crew industrial relations and help ensure that this kind of dispute cannot occur again.

“British Airways cabin crew are rightly renowned for their professionalism and skills. Our airline has a great future, and everyone within it intends to move forward together.”

British Airways, union reach peace deal
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