Unite, Britain's biggest trade union, has announced it will ballot its British Airways cabin crew members over a settlement deal to end a year-old dispute with the airline.
As documented on this blog, British Airways chairman Willie Walsh provoked the union's ire in October 2009 by announcing 1,700 cabin crew redundancies, "imposing" contractual changes on the remaining 14,000 cabin crew employees (now estimated at around 10,000), and trying to "introduce a second-tier workforce" by recruiting new cabin crew on poorer pay and conditions.
Since then, recriminations have flown back and forth between British Airways management and union officials, exacerbated by bitter court disputes in December and February over the legality of a strike ballot and imposition of cost-cutting proposals, which resulted in an estimated 6,700 cabin crew taking part in 22 days of strikes this year.
Unite British Airways cabin crew representatives met Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley and assistant general secretary Len McCluskey on Tuesday night to consider a new offer from the airline to end the lengthy dispute, following prolonged negotiations overseen by the conciliation service Acas and the TUC.
Woodley described the offer as the "best" that could be achieved in the current climate. No details of the offer have been released to the media as yet, however. The union wants to send them to cabin crew members first, who may be able to start voting on the deal as soon as next week.
Commenting on the compromise agreed with the airline, McCluskey said: "Unite has been determined to secure justice for its members throughout these long and complex negotiations. I am proud to have stood alongside these decent, loyal and professional men and women, who will now democratically determine if the agreement on offer provides the basis for the new relationship with British Airways which we all want to see."
Speaking at an annual convention of the Association of British Travel Agents, British Airways chairman Willie Walsh was less conciliatory. He said it was "entirely" Unite's fault that a settlement had taken so long to hammer out.
Walsh said: "In the past I have seen managers and businesses ignore issues and back down in the face of industrial action. We are not going to do that." He added that the airline had "robust" contingency plans in the event of further strikes, which would allow it to continue operating 100% of its long-haul services.
- British Airways strike: crew vote on peace deal (Guardian)
- British Airways cabin crew dispute: settlement in sight? (The Solicitor)
- Private British Airways cabin crew information leaked to Daily Mail (The Solicitor)
- British Airways cabin crew dispute lands in high court (The Solicitor)
- BA cabin crew vs. Willie Walsh: "ding, ding -- round 2!" (The Solicitor)
- BA cabin crew strike ballot invalid - 'disgraceful day for democracy'? (The Solicitor)
- BA cabin crew approve 12-day strike - 1 million passengers affected (The Solicitor)
- Redundancy rights to fore in BA cabin crew dispute (The Solicitor)
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