BA finally set to resolve cabin crew strikes

Sounds like the airline has finally managed to strike a deal with Unite to end these incredibly damaging strikes...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 12 May 2011
Unite said this morning that British Airways has agreed to restore the travel concessions it removed from striking cabin crew - and as a result it will be recommending the latest peace deal to its 10,000 members. The ballot is likely to take place in the next month, and if the deal is passed (which looks very likely), it’ll put an end to a dispute which has resulted in 22 days of strikes over the past 18 months, costing the airline some £150m. Music to boss Willie Walsh’s ears, we'd wager.

When staff walked out on strike following BA's announcement of 1,700 job losses and a pay freeze, BA responded by stripping them of their travel perks. This move ended up becoming the central focus of the dispute, with the union pointing out that many members of staff live abroad and rely on them to get to work every day. But Walsh and his band of negotiators refused to back down, saying that they had warned crew what would happen if they instigated industrial action. So to back down now is a big gesture - and one that betrays just how damaging this dispute had become.

Under the new deal, not only will those travel concessions be restored, but some staff will also have top-up payments written into their contracts, essentially reversing that pay freeze. It'll be a while before the agreement is formalised, but with any luck, this means summer holiday-makers won’t be living in fear of disruption - as they were last year.

But if it looks like one long-running and high-profile union dispute is finally nearing a resolution, the same can't be said for another. Transport secretary Philip Hammond and Bob Crow, the head of rail union RMT, are at loggerheads again; at a conference today, Hammond said the £5bn a year taxpayers spend on railways has become ‘unsustainable’ because wage bills have risen faster than in other industries. He pointed out that operating costs for rail have risen by £1.7bn over the last 10 years, with fares due to rise 3% above inflation over the next four years.

Fresh from having secured a pay deal for workers during the Olympics and the reinstatement of a sacked tube driver, Crow has already been on the warpath, accusing the Government of targeting unions. ‘This is class war in the raw with its roots planted deep in the playing fields of Eton,’ he raged. Which isn’t encouraging for the capital’s beleaguered travellers.

It does have a certain lyrical quality to it, though. If he ever gets bored of holding rail passengers to ransom, maybe he should consider a career in hip-hop?

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