BA faces 20 days of strikes after latest offer to crew is rejected

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British Airways could be hit by new strikes after the airline's cabin crew overwhelmingly rejected an offer aimed at ending their long-running dispute.

Cabin crew representatives will meet the Unite union's joint general secretaries, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, on Monday to discuss their next moves in the bitter row. Strikes could reportedly be held for 20 days.

Unite said there was an 81 per cent majority against the proposed deal in a turnout of 71 per cent.

The two union leaders said: "BA management should take note of their own employees' strong rejection of their offer and immediately address the outstanding concerns.

"They should make no mistake that Unite is fully committed to supporting our members in furthering this dispute if no resolution is found."

Union activists have been pressing for a lengthy walkout after a series of stoppages in March which caused travel chaos for passengers and cost BA tens of millions of pounds.

The dispute was inflamed this week when a union official representing cabin crew was sacked.

Unite had urged members to reject the proposed deal because BA had not fully restored travel concessions taken away from those who went on strike and because more than 50 union members had been suspended. The two sides have been in dispute for more than a year in a row over jobs, pay and working practices, including staffing levels on aircraft.

In March, when thousands of cabin crew walked out, BA was forced to put in place contingency plans to keep aircraft flying. Unite will have to give a week's notice of any fresh strikes.

BA said in a statement: "British Airways is disappointed but not surprised that Unite has clearly orchestrated a rejection of a very fair offer that addresses all the concerns raised during 14 months of talks.

"We urge Unite to put an end to this unnecessary dispute and focus on the best interests of its members. There can be nothing positive to be gained from further strikes.

"The majority of our crew came to work during the previous strikes and showed their commitment to our customers, despite their union's callous disregard for the travelling public.

"Unlike other businesses and airlines, we have avoided compulsory redundancies. Cabin crew face no pay cut or reduction in terms and conditions, and remain the best rewarded in the UK airline industry.

"It is not too late for Unite to put an end to this dispute and support our recovery from two consecutive years of record losses and return to sustained profitability and job security for its members."

Peter Smith, flights expert at travelsupermarket.com, said: "2010 is turning into an annus horribilis for British travellers as a chain of events have caused disruption to travel plans, while BA customers' loyalty is being tested to the extreme as they face yet more problems caused by industrial action.

He added that fresh strikes would be a "disaster" for BA, which lost millions during the recent ash crisis.

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