British Airways cabin crew begins 5-day strike

08:53, May 25, 2010      

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Demonstrators set off on a double-decker bus Monday as they take part in the first day of strike action by British Airways cabin crew, at Heathrow Airport, in London. Photo: AFP

British Airways cabin crew began a five-day strike Monday after weekend talks on a long-running dispute over wages, job cuts and working conditions broke down in acrimony.

The airline said it planned to operate more than 60 percent of long-haul flights and more than 50 percent of short-haul flights from Heathrow Airport, allowing 70 percent of passengers to reach their destinations.

A further two five-day strikes are planned if the dispute cannot be resolved, following on from stoppages in March.

"Our operations around the world have got off to a good start this morning," BA said in a statement.

BA said it would be leasing up to eight aircraft with pilots and cabin crews from other airlines to keep passengers on the move.

British Airways Chief Executive Willie Walsh and leaders of the labor union Unite, which represents the cabin crew, blame each other for a breakdown in communication.

"I made an offer to Willie Walsh Monday to put back our people's travel concessions that he's vindictively and foolishly taken away from them and I would personally call this strike off," Unite co-leader Tony Woodley told BBC Radio 4 Monday.

The issue of travel allowances for cabin crew has become a major sticking point in the conflict, which comes at a difficult time when the airline last week announced a record full-year loss of 531 million pounds ($762 million).

The new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition urged the two parties to resume talks.

"It's not in the interests of the company, it's not in the interests of the staff long-term and it's certainly not in the interests of the traveling public," Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman told reporters.

The latest round of face-to-face talks between managers and unions, on Saturday, came to an ill-tempered halt after protesters from a small left-wing group invaded the venue.

Source: Global Times


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