“It is not Acas’ problem, it is British Airways’ problem,” Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union (T&G), told Personnel Today.
“Nobody wants to see strikes, but BA has created the problem and BA needs to make concessions to solve the problem,” Woodley added.
Cabin crew are set to strike for three days from Monday 29 January, after 96% of T&G members voted for industrial action over pay, pensions and sick leave.
The Transport and General Workers’ Union claims that staff have 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.
BA hit back yesterday by leaking documents suggesting that T&G wants workers to be able to miss work without taking a sick day if they have one of 12 conditions, including ingrowing toenails and blocked ears.
But Woodley insisted that the issue was much deeper than lists of illnesses, and centred on a lack of respect from BA for its staff.
“There is a real anger among decent professional people at BA,” he said. “How does it get that respect back?”
However, BA remained confident it would avoid next week’s “unnecessary and unjustified” strike and insisted Acas offered a way forward.
Willie Walsh, BA chief executive, said: “I am convinced we can settle the issues at the centre of this dispute through sensible discussion and negotiation.
“We believe the answer must come through discussion, not confrontation – so we have asked Acas to assist us in taking the process forward.”
Walsh added that T&G’s militant approach was making a compromise harder to find.
“Unfortunately, because of the nature of the demands put forward by T&G in recent days, we have not yet been able to find a solution or engage in the kind of positive dialogue we have achieved with other groups of employees,” he said.
Up to 700,000 passengers could be affected by the grounding of planes next week, and nearly £100m was wiped from BA’s stock market value yesterday. Further three-day strikes have been threatened from 5 February and from 12 February.
Formal talks are due to resume between the two parties this afternoon (Tuesday).
Jack Dromey, T&G deputy general secretary, said: “What we need at BA is a fresh start and a new relationship so that cabin crew’s confidence in the company management can be restored.”