BA passengers are faced with the threat of yet more strike action in the New Year, including over the February half-term holidays, after the British Airways’ cabin crew union announced yesterday it will ballot for fresh strikes.
Unite said it had ‘no choice’ but to give its members another vote on whether to continue with industrial action after accusing BA of continuing its ‘vicious war’ against the workforce.
Just as they did last year, the strikes are set to target specific holidays including the February half-term and the long Easter break, which coincides with the royal wedding.
With timing calculated to make maximum impact, yesterday’s strike announcement came only a matter of hours after British Airways’ shareholders approved a £5billion merger between their airline and the Spanish carrier Iberia, BA’s first step in their ambition to create the world’s biggest airline block under the International Airlines Group (AIG).
BA bosses admitted that the move created ‘fresh uncertainty’ for passengers and that the action was that of a ‘dysfunctional’ union that marked a ‘lurch backwards to old-style union militancy’.
BA vowed to ‘keep the flag flying’ through any strikes and said it had in place ‘well-established contingency plans’ which will allow it to fulfil normal timetables at Gatwick and London City airports.
The dispute, which started over a year ago, has now progressed from issues surrounding manning levels and conditions of service on aircraft, to knock-on issues about the withdrawal of staff perks – including free and cheap flights – from strikers, and over the sacking and suspension of union members linked to the strikes.
One insider said: ‘Many crew are simply not going to turn up, with a massive spike in sickness over the Christmas period. There will be many flight cancellations over Christmas and BA are very worried about it.’
Since strike action began in March, cabin crew have taken 22 days off, costing BA over £150million.
Unite’s joint leader, Tony Woodley, accused BA of a ‘vicious war against its workforce’ and said: ‘We will not stand by while this airline bullies our members out of their jobs, and if it takes strike action to bring BA management to its senses, then that is the road we must, regretfully, travel.’