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BA cabin crew to vote on deal to end dispute

British Airways cabin crew are to vote on a proposed deal aimed at ending their long-running dispute, it was revealed today.

Sources told the Press Association that union leaders believed enough progress had been made during lengthy talks in recent months to warrant a ballot.

Thousands of members of Unite will vote, probably from next week, with the result expected in mid-November.

If they accept the deal it will signal the end of the year-long row, which started over cost cutting but worsened when BA disciplined union members and withdrew travel concessions from cabin crew who went on strike.

Unite's leaders have held more than 50 hours of talks with BA, many involving its chief executive Willie Walsh, at the conciliation service Acas in a bid to break the deadlock.

The union made no comment today, but it is understood that details of the proposed deal will be finalised in the next few days before being sent to the cabin crew.

Unite would have to hold a fresh ballot for industrial action if the deal was rejected, but if members accepted, the bitter dispute would be over.

Tony Woodley, joint leader of Unite, said yesterday that the BA row was the most testing industrial dispute of his career.

Unite members took 22 days of strike action earlier this year, causing travel chaos for passengers and costing BA more than £150 million.

The dispute started just over a year ago after BA announced a series of cost-cutting moves, including a reduction in the number of cabin crew.

Unite has been urging BA to restore the travel concessions and stop taking disciplinary action as part of any deal to end the dispute.

The union had been considering holding a strike ballot on claims of management bullying and intimidation.

Mr Walsh said yesterday it was "entirely" the fault of Unite that the dispute had dragged on for 12 months, adding that changes to working practices should have been tackled 10 years ago.

"In the past I have seen managers and businesses ignore issues and back down in the face of industrial action. We are not going to do that."

He said that should there be further industrial action, BA hoped to be able to run a full service at Gatwick and London City airports and all its long-haul flights at Heathrow, with the only question being just how much of Heathrow's short-haul programme could operate.

He said that while BA hoped to reach agreement, it was also planning "for all eventualities" and had a "very robust" contingency programme in place.