British Airways cabin crew have rejected the airline's final offer aimed at ending their long-running dispute, raising the threat of fresh strikes, it was announced today.
Members of Unite voted by 3,419 to 1,686 against the offer, dashing hopes of an end to the bitter row over cost savings, travel concessions and disciplinary issues.
The union had balloted around 11,000 of its members without making any recommendation on whether to accept the proposed deal.
Union leaders will now meet to decide their next move.
A Unite spokesman said: "The union will now meet with cabin crew representatives this afternoon to consider the next steps."
Cabin crew have taken 22 days of strike action since March, costing the carrier more than £150 million, and one of the options being considered is to hold another ballot for further walkouts, which could take place from September.
The 2-1 majority against the offer follows previous ballots on industrial action, which returned much bigger votes in favour.
Unite postponed a strike ballot last month after BA tabled the new offer, but the union's leadership decided against making any recommendation on whether it should be accepted.
The dispute started last year over BA's plans to cut costs by reducing the number of cabin crew on aircraft, but the row intensified after the airline withdrew travel concessions from staff who went on strike.
Relations worsened after BA took disciplinary action against union members as a result of the dispute, including a number of sackings.
Unite said two of its members were sacked last week, taking the total into double figures.
In a letter to Unite members, joint leaders Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson said: "It is up to you to make up your minds as to whether this offer is acceptable to you as a basis for drawing this prolonged and bitter conflict to a close."
The British Airways Stewards and Stewardesses Association (Bassa), the cabin crew branch of Unite, published a guide to the offer, called "the good, the bad, the promises and the threats".
The good points were said to be a pay rise of 2.9% in 2011/12 and a 3% rise the following year, possible expansion of work at Gatwick airport, non-victimisation of workers caught up in disciplinary cases, and the partial reinstatement of staff travel.
The bad points included no further recruitment to BA's current fleet of aircraft, "vastly reduced" terms and conditions for new staff, continued dismissal of staff in a "disproportionate and unfair way" and only partial reintroduction of staff travel concessions.
The threats were said to include the loss of staff travel for life for involvement in any future strikes, reduced rights for workers, and attacks on Unite's ability to comment in a "free and open" way.
BA said: "We are encouraged by the result of this ballot which shows that 73% of our cabin crew did not reject our offer.
"With only around a quarter of our cabin crew voting against the deal, support for Unite is ebbing away. The union has lost the moral authority to represent the views of our cabin crew.
"Such a low turnout raises serious questions for Unite and shows it does not have a clear mandate to reject our offer. We would urge them to come back to the table to sign the agreement and end the dispute.
"We have made a fair offer that includes two years of guaranteed rises in basic pay on top of annual increment pay increases and gives certainty to crew about their future earnings. There are no cuts in pay and our current Heathrow crew remain the best rewarded in the UK airline industry.
"After the worst recession in aviation history, we must reshape ourselves to achieve the kind of sustainable profitability that will enable us to invest for the benefit of our customers."Reuse content