Walsh to Unite: Strike flopped, give peace a chance


The chief executive of British Airways has declared the latest cabin crew strike a failure and called on the Unite union to “give peace a chance”.

Willie Walsh said that with more than 75% of BA customers still flying and over 60% of cabin crew still working, the series of strikes should now stop.

He made his comments in an open letter to Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite.

Mr Woodley later said no decision had been made on further strike action.

Speaking to the BBC at a rally of union members at the headquarters of the TUC in central London, Unite’s joint general secretary said there had not even been any discussion within the union about whether to hold a third round of strike action.

“I would like to think… that ultimately we can get a settlement that means we don’t have any more disputes,” Mr Woodley said.

Unite has said it will not strike over the next two weeks, giving at least two weeks to try to reach an agreement. However, there are currently no plans for peace talks.

‘Common ground’

With the latest four-day stoppage due to end at midnight, both men wrote open letters to each other, published in the Daily Mirror newspaper.

Mr Walsh repeated calls for Unite to put BA’s latest settlement proposals to a vote of union members.

This offer was rejected by the union leadership almost two weeks ago, because Unite said it was even worse than the original peace proposals that prompted the strikes.

The BA chief ended his letter with a personal plea to Mr Woodley. “I have great respect for you. I know you don’t want more strikes. I know you want a settlement,” Mr Walsh wrote.

Mr Woodley threw the blame back on the airline. “Both BA’s image and its bank balance have suffered because the company did not listen to what its own employees were telling it – and then act to avert the disruption,” he wrote.

But he said that the two sides should try to build on the “common ground” that exists between them. “We accept that BA needs to cut costs to survive.”

Strike costs

According to BBC analysis of BA’s flight schedules for Tuesday, the airline was forced to cancel 42% of its all-important services to and from Heathrow airport.

The two sides continue to dispute the financial impact of the strikes, with BA saying on Monday that its profit outlook for the year would remain unchanged.

In a research note analysts at Citigroup estimated that the total impact for March would be about £72m – made up of £94m in lost revenues and additional costs minus £22m in savings, especially on fuel.

However, analysts will be watching closely passenger figures for April. This is because many potential travellers might have been deterred from booking with BA to avoid any additional strike dates.