Unite to postpone BA strike ballot after offer

The Unite union is set to postpone a new British Airways strike ballot so it can consider a fresh offer from the airline in the bitter cabin crew dispute, it was revealed today.

Unite had been due to hold a ballot starting next Tuesday unless there was a breakthrough in the dispute, which has seen 22 days of strike action since March.

But BA made a new offer on Friday which includes two years of guaranteed rises in basic salary from February 2011.

And today, Unite joint leader Tony Woodley indicated that an announcement of the postponement of the strike ballot was expected tomorrow.

He said it would be "suicidal and inexplicable" if the new BA offer was not put to Unite members.

The offer - and Mr Woodley's words - suggest that there could now be an end to a dispute which has cost BA around £150 million.

BA's new offer includes a new top-up payment to guarantee that existing crew will not lose out on route allowances when newly-recruited crew begin flying in the autumn.

Making the offer on Friday, BA's cabin crew head Bill Francis said: "We have changed our offer in line with feedback we have received from crew and we genuinely believe that it can end this dispute - which is what the vast majority of crew and our customers want."

Speaking today on Sky News, Mr Woodley said the strike ballot was likely to be postponed "so our members can review this latest offer".

He went on: "This dispute could have been sorted out months ago. The airline has wanted to browbeat the union into submission but the union is unbowed.

"You cannot beat people into submission. Mr Walsh (BA chief executive Willie Walsh) had adopted a macho approach. There have been no winners here."

During the days of the dispute BA had been able to fly most of its long-haul routes but has had to axe a number of short-haul flights.

A strike ballot starting on Tuesday would have taken around a month and would have led to the possibility of walkouts in the busy travel month of August.

BA said today: "We welcome this statement from the Unite leadership. We believe our offer is fair and reasonable and provides a genuine opportunity to end this dispute."

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