BA will never bow down to union pressure, vows Walsh

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The Independent Online

The British Airways chief executive, Willie Walsh, had harsh words for the cabin crew union Unite yesterday and vowed that the airline would not back down if there was another strike.

Despite reported progress in talks with cabin crew representatives last week, Mr Walsh told delegates at an Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) conference that the year-long dispute that saw waves of stoppages earlier in the year was "entirely" the fault of Unite.

He added that although BA's management was keen to reach an agreement, the airline had "very robust" contingency plans and was ready to run nearly all its services if there was another strike. All flights from Gatwick and London City airports would go ahead, as would all long-haul flights from Heathrow, Mr Walsh said.

"In the past, I have seen managers and businesses ignore issues and back down in the face of industrial action," he said. "We are not going to do that."

The dispute started more than a year ago over changes to terms and conditions. But it has since become entrenched as a fight over BA's withdrawal of travel perks from striking workers. Meetings between Mr Walsh and Unite last week reportedly led to a new offer from BA to be put to the 10,000 cabin crew union represents.

Mr Walsh also used yesterday's Abta conference to re-state his opposition to the plan to raise air passenger duty next month.

The Government is proposing to change the tax to one per plane, rather than per passenger – a move Mr Walsh described as "socially regressive" and damaging to both the aviation and tourism industries.