Hope in fresh attempt to avert BA strike

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The Independent Online

British Airways (BA) is going back to the negotiating table with Unite to try to hammer out a deal that will avoid a cabin crew strike.

A 12-day walk-out the trade union planned for Christmas was averted at the last minute when a court upheld claims that Unite had counted votes from members who had subsequently left the company.

Both sides were making positive noises today about the renewed talks, which will be chaired by Brendan Barber, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

The Joint general secretaries of Unite, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, issues a combined statement welcoming the tentative rapprochement. “We have said all along that this dispute could only be resolved through negotiation, rather than imposition or litigation, so we are delighted to be joining BA management in talks,” it said. “We will be approaching those talks in a constructive spirit, seeking to find a settlement that meets the real concerns of BA’s skilled, loyal and professional cabin crew, while keeping the airline flying.”

A spokesman for BA said: “We have always said we would make ourselves available for talks with Unite at any time without preconditions. We are pleased that this new round of talks will now proceed under the auspices of the TUC.”

But the participants will have considerable ground to make up to reach an agreement over BA’s plans to re-shape cabin crew pay and conditions. Changes introduced in November cut the number of long-haul crew from either 15 or 16 down to 14. Meanwhile, the union is going ahead with a re-ballot of its 12,500 members.

* (PA) British Airways enjoyed an encouraging last month of 2009, according to passenger figures out today.

Despite the fact that some customers would have been deterred by the threat of a Christmas cabin crew strike, BA carried only 4.4 per cent fewer passengers in December 2009 than in December 2008.

With the strike being called off following a court ruling, a total of 2.40 million people travelled on BA flights last month, with the biggest fall (down 7.7 per cent) being on Asia Pacific traffic.

BA's planes were 76.8 per cent full last month - a fraction better than the 76.7 per cent figure achieved in December 2008.

The airline said its Club World long-haul business class traffic rose 1.6 per cent last month and its long-haul business and first-class numbers continued to show signs of improvement.

The airline also said that 98 per cent of its flights operated last month despite the pre-Christmas bad weather.

Meanwhile, budget airline easyJet, which had to axe a number of flights because of the snow before Christmas, reported today that it had carried 3,399,305 passengers in December - a 9.3% rise on its December 2008 figure.