Strike set to hit BA flights

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British Airways last night offered to take part in talks to try to avert a threatened three-day strike by cabin crew next week. If it goes ahead, BA services using Heathrow and intercontinental flights from Gatwick will be affected, although the airline will try to operate as much of the timetable as it can with non-strikers and staff on short-term contracts.

On BBC 2's Newsnight David Hyde, BA director, said conciliation talks could be held. Bill Morris, head of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said he had contacted David Evans, the ACAS chief conciliation officer, to take up BA's offer. "I'm treating it as a genuine offer of conciliation and not one of BA's PR stunts."

Robert Ayling, BA's chief executive, said plans had been set in motion and the company would announce a proposed schedule for strike days.

While leaders of cabin staff decided to go ahead with industrial action, representatives of 9,000 ground staff opted to suspend a decision on stoppages for 48 hours pending talks with management. If negotiations involving BA's airport workers break down, they may decide to walk out for 24 hours on 11 July, to coincide with the third day of the cabin crews' stoppage.

In a telephone conversation with Mr Morris, Mr Ayling agreed to address the grievances of ground staff but refused to deal with the dispute involving cabin crews on grounds that five months' talks had proved fruitless and that the minority union Cabin Crew '89 had accepted the terms.

BA registered readiness to negotiate on terms and conditions of 1,400 staff who work for the catering division, which is to be sold. Many staff have families in the Indian sub-continent and may respond to improved assurances of subsidised travel when the subsidiary is sold.

Mr Morris agreed to suspend a decision over a strike by ground staff but authorised the stoppage by cabin crew.