Unite threatens more strikes if BA boss does not reinstate perks

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The Independent Online

British Airways faces yet more strikes this summer if chief executive Willie Walsh continues his "hard-man stance" on cabin crew travel perks, the Unite union warned yesterday.

Speaking at the opening of Unite's first policy conference in Manchester, Tony Woodley, Unite's joint general secretary, told delegates that the trade union could re-ballot its members as early as next week to extend the 12-week period sanctioned by cabin crews' previous vote.

Today is the third day of the second tranche of four five-day strikes called by Unite in protest at BA plans to cut staff numbers and change terms and conditions. Extensive talks between the two sides appear to have reached an agreement on the issues that started the dispute more than 12 months ago. But the row over subsequent issues arising from the handling of the industrial action itself – particularly Mr Walsh's withdrawal of travel perks for staff participating in the strikes – has resulted in a stand-off.

Both sides claim they are ready and willing to do a deal to break the deadlock. But Mr Woodley yesterday reiterated claims that BA is "bullying" staff, and stressed the trade union will continue to disrupt the company's operations until Mr Walsh backs down. "There is only one thing to do with bullies – that is stand up to them until they learn some manners," Mr Woodley said.

BA has repeatedly rejected accusations of bullying, and claims that people have only been disciplined as a result of the dispute in response to claims of bullying by other members of staff. The airline says it remains available for talks with the union, and Mr Walsh will travel to the Manchester conference for further discussions if required. The most recent round of negotiations closed on Friday night, and conciliation service Acas is trying to convene further talks.

BA said yesterday that it is operating 100 per cent of its services from Gatwick and London City airports. At Heathrow, some 70 per cent of long-haul and 55 per cent of short-haul flights are flying – up from 60 per cent and 50 per cent during the first phase of the strike last week.

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