BA Says Union Plans 48-hour Strike as Talks Fail

Thousands of British Airways cabin crew plan to stage a two-day strike at the end of the month after talks between the carrier and its largest union broke down overnight, BA said on Thursday.

Europe's third-largest airline, however, called on the Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G) to reverse its decision and seek a peaceful deal on a new pensions plan and working conditions.

Hundreds and thousands of passengers will be affected if the stoppage goes ahead as planned on January 30 and 31.

"We are bitterly disappointed that the T&G has refused to respond positively to the serious proposals we have made on the union's two crucial issues," BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh said in a statement.

"It has chosen instead to confirm a 48-hour stoppage for next week that will wreck the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of customers."

After more than 24 hours of talks broke down, Walsh said BA had accepted union proposals over management policy and put forward a solution on salaries.

"The T&G has rejected our position out of hand," he said.

"If it is serious about solving this dispute peacefully it should turn away from confrontation and support our approach to ACAS in a bid to find a breakthrough."

Walsh was referring to the publicly-funded, independent Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

A union spokesman was not immediately available for comment.


On Wednesday, the T&G called off the first day of what had been billed as a 72-hour walkout -- an initially positive announcement that sent BA's shares higher.

The union said last week 96% of the cabin crew it represents had voted in favor of strike action. It is threatening two more three-day stoppages in February.

A BA spokeswoman said 11,000 of the carrier's 15,000 cabin crew staff were members of the union.

The firm plans to announce its flying schedule for the days affected by the walkout later on Thursday.

Among unresolved issues in the ongoing row are differences over the airline's sick-leave policy and its pay scales.

BA says cabin crew were taking an average of 22 sick days a year before a new absence policy was introduced in October 2005 which has lowered the figure to 12 days.

The carrier says the union also wants it to combine its two cabin-crew pay scales, the newer of which was agreed to by the union a decade ago. The move would cost BA up to 19 million pounds ($37 million) a year, another spokeswoman has said.