British Airways (BA) today admitted that “hundreds of thousands” of passengers’ travel plans faced ruin after it conceded defeat in its bid to avert next week’s two-day cabin crew strike.
Talks had taken place all this week after members of the Transport and General Workers’ Union (T&G) voted overwhelmingly in favour of strikes over pay, pensions and sick leave.
Yesterday, the T&G called off a strike that had been set for next Monday (29 January) as a goodwill gesture, but BA has accepted that the union’s cabin crew members will not work on Tuesday or Wednesday. The airline is set to announce a revised flight plan for those days later today (Thursday).
BA chief executive Willie Walsh said early this morning: “We are bitterly disappointed that the T&G has refused to respond positively to the serious proposals we have made on the union’s two crucial issues.”
Walsh insisted that BA had proposed to improve the application of its absence-management policy and put forward a solution on pay.
“The T&G has rejected our position out of hand,” he said. “It has chosen instead to confirm a 48-hour stoppage for next week that will wreck the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of customers.”
The T&G claims that staff had been forced to work when unwell as the airline battles to reduce sickness absence. Employees now take an average of 12 days’ sick leave per year, down from 22 two years ago.
Tony Woodley, T&G general secretary, said earlier this week that the anger ran deep among cabin crew staff, and involved a perceived lack of respect from managers.
Woodley also revealed that BA’s move to involve conciliation firm Acas would not help to avert the strikes.
“It is not Acas’ problem, it is BA’s problem,” Woodley told Personnel Today.
“Nobody wants to see strikes, but BA has created the problem, and BA needs to make concessions to solve the problem.”
Up to 700,000 passengers could be affected by the grounding of planes next week.
Further strikes are planned for 5-7 February, and for 12-14 February.