BA chief Willie Walsh seeks volunteers to 'keep airline flying'

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The Independent Travel

A series of strikes by cabin crew threatens travel chaos for families and other passengers in the coming weeks.

Members of Unite are set to walk out on May 18-22 inclusive, May 24-28, May 30-June 3 and June 5-9 in a bitter row over jobs, pay and working conditions - the last day of action coming just two days before the start of the World Cup in South Africa.



BA chief executive Willie Walsh sent an internal message to staff today attacking Unite as a "cynical and calculating" union and denying claims that he had rejected an approach for talks over the weekend.



"Unite has repeatedly moved the goalposts and is not interested in settling this dispute. The union knows our latest offer addresses all the concerns it has raised during 15 months of negotiations and that we have compromised many times in an effort to get a resolution," he wrote.



Mr Walsh said BA had offered a partial reversal of cuts to crew, given assurances to protect pay, terms and conditions for current staff, guaranteed wage rises in line with inflation for two years and agreed to return travel concessions to employees who went on strike in March, subject to certain conditions.



The BA chief said he could not make any more compromises and appealed to staff to volunteer to "keep our airline flying" during the strikes.



Mr Walsh maintained that 30 disciplinary cases had been held, resulting in seven dismissals for serious cases of misconduct, adding: "Most of the suspensions have taken place following allegations from colleagues of bullying and intimidation. We are duty bound to investigate these."



BA said the days in between the four blocks of strikes meant it was effectively a 23-day walkout in the run up to the World Cup, which will disrupt a school break, business trips and "hard earned" holidays.



Tony Woodley, joint leader of Unite, said: "For all the bluster, Willie Walsh ducks the question all passengers want an answer to - is he prepared to resume negotiations or not? Or is he so determined to punish loyal and decent employees for supporting their union that he is prepared to push BA into the immense losses that will follow?"



The airline said it planned to operate a "substantial" part of its long-haul schedule from Heathrow and predicted that flights to and from Gatwick would not be affected by the series of five-day stoppages, which will start next Tuesday.



BA is expected to give details in the next few days of its flight schedule at Heathrow during the first strikes.



"We are confident that many crew will again ignore Unite's pointless strike call and support the efforts of the rest of the airline to keep our customers flying," the company said in a statement.

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