British Airways has 1,000 volunteer staff trained and ready to take over cabin crew shifts if the threatened strike goes ahead in coming weeks, chief executive Willie Walsh told staff today.
The airline has been putting in place contingency plans since trade union members voted nearly eight-to-one in favour of industrial action in the dispute over pay and conditions last month.
Alongside the 1,000 volunteers already on stand-by, another 5,000-plus have come forward and are in the process of being trained.
In an internal memo Mr Walsh stressed that the cost-cutting plans are vital for the loss-making company to bounce back from the recession. He also said the company is doing all it can to ensure operations are not disrupted. All BA flights from London City will go ahead regardless of the strike. Some 70 per cent of Gatwick cabin crews are committed to working normally, so the long-haul schedule from the airport will remain unchanged as will half the short-haul flights. At Heathrow, BA has 23 fully-crewed charter aircraft ready to help take the strain.
“Let me be clear: if Unite proceeds to strike dates and then an actual strike, it will not soften our position,” Mr Walsh said. “In fact, it will harden our position because we will be forced to seek additional savings to recoup the losses a strike will cause. And crew who take part in a strike, consciously inflicting damage on our business, will permanently lose eligibility for staff travel.”
The trade unions responded furiously yesterday, accusing Mr Walsh of being “inflammatory and confrontational”. “Again, we say to BA that the only way to resolve the issues before us is through negotiation. They certainly will not be addressed by attempting to intimidate employees,” Len McCluskey, the assistant general secretary of Unite, said.