Industrial strife at British Airways is threatening to destroy relations between cabin crew and pilots, with implications for passenger safety.
A pilots' leader warned yesterday that the dispute is beginning to have echoes of the miners strike of 1984-5, which led to lasting bitterness between strikers and strikebreakers.
Cabin crew belonging to the Unite union have been involved in a series of industrial disputes and have become increasingly resentful of pilots who cross picket lines to go to work. In a ballot this month, they voted by a majority of almost four to one to take industrial action again, in a long-running dispute over pay and job cuts.
But the new leader of Unite, Len McCluskey, has written to pilots' union Balpa asking them not to allow members to break the strike and undertake cabin crew duties, in what could be the opening salvo of a dispute that could lead to a rift between the two unions.
But Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan, who has not yet replied, has said privately he is not going to invite his members to vote on whether to support the cabin crew, because he suspects a majority would vote to break the strike. He added: "After all this is over, there will have to be a process where people work together again. We can't afford a situation like we had in the mining villages."