BA unions dismiss suggestions of strike discomfort

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Fresh talks between British Airways and the Unite union are due to be held today, shortly after a court hearing at which BA is trying to have a proposed cabin crew strike declared illegal.

But there is anecdotal evidence of unhappiness among some cabin crew at the 12-day strike, which is due to start on 22 December and extend across the entire Christmas holiday period.

According to a representative of one union that has representation at BA: "Our feeling is that this strike won't happen.

"Some cabin crew are telling us: 'We thought we were going to have a one- or two-day strike.' They didn't expect to be out for 12 days over Christmas. It's not popular."

But a Unite spokeswoman counters: "The decision for the 12-day strike was taken by the members. The decision was reached by representatives of the cabin crew."

She also denies reports that one of the union's two joint general secretaries, Derek Simpson, has described the 12-day action as excessive. Simpson is cited as having said the action was "probably over-the-top" during a television interview today.

"That's not what he said," says the spokeswoman. "He said that the action was being taken with a heavy heart but that, quite clearly, [cabin crew] felt that they had no choice."

BA's cockpit union, BALPA, has remained publicly neutral, although it points out that its members recognised the carrier's "extreme financial challenge" and negotiated a contribution which will "help get the airline through these difficult days".

BALPA general secretary Jim McAuslan says that the union hopes to see a resolution before industrial action takes hold.

The GMB union, which represents administrative staff, has not commented on the dispute.

BA is seeking an injunction at the High Court in London today, claiming that ballot papers for the strike were sent to some cabin crew members who had either left the airline or were in the process of leaving under earlier redundancy packages.