British Airways cabin crew on 14th day of strike
LONDON - May 31, 2010 -- British Airways cabin crew walked out for the 14th day Monday in an on-and-off strike over pay, benefits and working conditions, and a union leader said disruptions could continue into the summer.
Striking cabin crew walked off their jobs May 24 for five days and began the new round of strikes Sunday after the latest round of talks collapsed. The cabin crew union has called for another five days of strikes beginning on June 5 if there is no settlement.
The airline says it plans to fly more than 70 percent of its long-haul flights, compared to the 60 percent it had operated during last week's strike, and 55 percent of short-haul flights, up from 50 percent last week.
A big sticking point in the dispute is British Airways decision to take away travel benefits for cabin crew who joined in strikes.
Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of the Unite union, accused British Airways Chief Executive Willie Walsh of blocking a settlement. And Woodley said the union is preparing for another vote on continuing strikes beyond early June, when the current strike authorization ends.
"Willie, we all know there is a deal to be done at British Airways, one that recognizes the real commercial needs and problems of your company as well as our members' legitimate interests. Unite is ready to do that deal," Woodley said in his speech to the union conference in Manchester, according to a text released by the union.
"But we are not, and never will, be prepared to see our members and our union humiliated, victimized and reduced to ruins, as you seem to want - never."
The British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association, a part of Unite, says it was close to agreeing with BA on a deal that would have cut costs and allowed the airline to restructure. It complains, however, that the airline has taken disciplinary action against more than 50 members and is angry that BA withdrew travel privileges from striking crew.
Unite says it represents about 12,000 cabin crew.
British Airways says it has made an offer that it believes cabin crew would accept if the union would put it to a vote.
The airline says it has offered to reinstate travel concessions to cabin crew - they pay 10 percent of normal airline fares to commute to work - once all elements of its offer were implemented. It has accused Unite of reopening issues that had been settled.
The strikes are an additional financial hardship for BA, which reported a record annual loss of 425 million pounds ($611 million) for the year ending March 31.
Seven days of walkouts in March cost the airline around 43 million pounds ($63 million).
british airways, business/finance
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