The industrial dispute at British Airways grew even more vitriolic yesterday when a senior trade union official was sacked for gross misconduct the day before results of the latest ballot on a peace deal were to be announced.
The airline refused to give details of cabin crew member Duncan Holley's case, but stressed that it was part of normal procedures. "It is entirely appropriate and reasonable for us to investigate serious allegations of misconduct," a spokeswoman said. "The company's disciplinary processes have been in place for many years and are agreed with all the trade unions."
The Unite union claimed Mr Holley's dismissal was part of a sustained policy of harassment against staff involved in a long-running row over the loss-making airline's plans to cut benefits freeze pay and reduce numbers of cabin crew on flights.
More than 50 people have been disciplined and five sacked since the dispute began, the union claims. "This is another act of vindictiveness from a company that is clearly not interested in solving the dispute peacefully," a spokeswoman for Unite said. "It is of a piece with a company pursuing a strategy of bullying and intimidation against its workforce."
The latest twist came on the final day of voting by Unite's 11,000 BA cabin crew members over revised terms and conditions hammered out in three weeks of talks following strikes last month. Unite recommended that its members should reject the new terms – a move that the airline's chief executive, Willie Walsh, described this week as "a little bit bizarre".
The ballot result will be announced today, but future strike dates may not be announced until next week because of the general election. If the pay deal is rejected, BA faces stoppages of up to 12 days. Meanwhile, Network Rail is negotiating with the Rail, Maritime and Transport union about signallers' rosters and proposed job cuts.