Unite calls for BA talks to take place in public

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The Independent Online

British Airways cabin crew yesterday began five days of industrial action after the Unite union failed to reach agreement with the airline during negotiations last week. Members of the union plan another five-day walk-out from 5 June. These come after seven days of strikes in March.

Unite, which is representing cabin crew members over issues of pay, jobs and conditions, said the strikes would cost BA more than £100m and bring disruption to thousands of passengers hoping to travel during the half-term school holidays. BA said there would be less disruption to flights than last week, claiming more cabin crew staff are reporting for duty.

Yesterday, Derek Simpson, joint leader of Unite, called for transparent talks which would allow members of the public to see how "unreasonable" Willie Walsh, BA's chief executive, is being.

Simpson, speaking on BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show, said: "I prefer these negotiations to be in front of a camera. Let the world see what this is all about. If people could see what he is doing, they would know who to blame."

Talks between the two sides ended without agreement on Friday, with Unite claiming Walsh blocked the possibility of a resolution by refusing to reinstate travel concessions for the 3,000 cabin crew on strike. Simpson said: "He has refused to reinstate travel concessions in full despite Unite making it clear that the union would suspend the strike if he did so."

The final strike begins on Saturday and ends the following Wednesday. Unite will have to hold a fresh ballot before further action can take place. The conciliation service Acas will contact both sides to arrange further talks.

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