BA shareholders face union protest

British Airways shareholders will face a union protest today before the airline's annual meeting in London.

The Unite union, currently engaged in a bitter cabin crew dispute with BA, will be handing letters to shareholders as they attend the meeting in Westminster.

The letter urges management to end its "fixation with conflict" over a dispute which already cost BA around £150 million.

It is thought that Unite could be joined in the protest by a delegation from a Spanish union representing workers with the Iberia airline whose merger with BA is expected to be completed in the next few months.

BA cabin crew have staged a series of strikes since March and are currently being balloted on a fresh offer from BA.

The airline said the new offer addresses crews' concerns about future earnings and includes a firm commitment that staff could keep current pay and conditions.

Unite is making no recommendation on whether to accept the proposed deal.

Last year, Unite hired lemmings for a protest outside the annual meeting venue but the animals were taken away after an RSPCA inspector said they showed signs of distress.

In its letter to shareholders, Unite urged them to "use your influence to help bring an end to the strife which is wrecking the airline".

It added that BA had chosen a "destructive" confrontational approach to the dispute which had cost "well over £1 billion if we include industry estimates of future damage to brand and bookings".

This cost had now "vastly outstripped" the savings BA originally sought and it would "take years to recoup this wasted money", the letter said.

Unite added that it was "time for co-operation, not conflict", and that, whatever the result of the ballot over BA's new offer, bad feeling would endure unless significant efforts were made to prevent it.

Unite has said that removal of cabin crew travel concessions remains an obstacle to settling the dispute.

In the letter today, Unite said: "If management want to restore morale and team spirit at BA then, whatever the result of our ballot on the offer, it needs to do one thing above all: restore travel concessions in full to all cabin crew. It won't cost a penny. And it would be a gesture worth millions."

The Spanish CCOO union, which represents Iberia workers, issued a statement today saying it was "extremely concerned with the way senior BA management has instigated a conflict-based approach to industrial relations in the current dispute with cabin crew".

The statement went on: "Although CCOO believes that the merger with BA is to the benefit of our members, we have grave reservations over the style of management, particularly in respect of labour issues.

"Should a similar approach be instituted within the new joint company, or imported into Iberia, then we are clear that it will be vigorously opposed."

Addressing shareholders at the meeting, BA chairman Martin Broughton said the airline's chief executive Willie Walsh had often been depicted by Unite and Unite's cabin crew branch BASSA as "adopting a confrontational approach to industrial relations".

Mr Broughton said that "on the contrary", Mr Walsh and his team had successfully negotiated new modernised working practices with 16 separate union bargaining groups across the business.

Saying that BASSA had "distorted management's proposals" and spread alarm at what Mr Walsh might do, Mr Broughton went on: "Management must have the right to manage. BASSA has failed its members. They have misrepresented management to their members. They have misrepresented their members' views to management.

"They have declined to negotiate and thus frequently failed to represent their members' views at all. They have made promises to their members they cannot deliver. The (BA) board's patience with BASSA has now been exhausted."

Mr Broughton said: "While it is very regrettable that we have found ourselves in a fight with highly-valued and professional members of staff (and I include those who have been on strike but continue to act professionally on their return to work), we will win the right to manage."

Mr Walsh told shareholders said "some issues remain to be concluded" in the dispute but that he was "pleased that Unite is currently balloting its members on our proposals".

He went on: "We believe this offer provides a genuine opportunity to end this dispute."

Mr Walsh said that the airline had been able to operate many flights during earlier strikes, adding that if there was further industrial action, BA aimed to fly 100% of its long-haul operations."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road