Cabin crew at British Airways have overwhelmingly rejected the latest pay offer from the airline, setting the stage for a prolonged period of strike action.
Members of the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA) were balloted earlier this month, with some 81 per cent voting to reject the latest deal offered by the British flag-carrier.
Turn out in the vote was 71 per cent.
The Unite union had “strongly recommended” members reject the latest offer, a decision British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh branded “bizarre”.
As a result, British Airways now faces the prospect of up to 20 days of strike action over the coming months, with thousands of flights at risk.
Following the vote, union leaders called on British Airways to listen to employees.
“BA management should take note of their own employees’ strong rejection of their offer and immediately address the outstanding concerns,” said Unite’s joint general secretaries, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley in a statement.
“They should make no mistake that Unite is fully committed to supporting our members in furthering this dispute if no resolution is found.”
Unite must give British Airways seven days notice before taking any industrial action, with strikes therefore possible by mid-May.
The union called members out on strike for a total of seven days during March, costing the airline an estimated £45 million.
Following the decision, British Airways was assessing the situation, but was quick to assure passengers: “At the moment, Unite has not announced any dates for further strike action.”
“British Airways is disappointed but not surprised that Unite has clearly orchestrated a rejection of a very fair offer that addresses all the concerns raised during 14 months of talks,” added a BA statement.
“We urge Unite to put an end to this unnecessary dispute and focus on the best interests of its members.
“There can be nothing positive to be gained from further strikes.”
The two sides have been locked in an increasingly bitter dispute as the airline attempts to cut costs.
A number of pay deals have been offered, all of which have been rejected by unions.
BA defended the latest offer, saying: “The majority of our crew came to work during the previous strikes and demonstrated their firm commitment to our customers, despite their union’s callous disregard for the travelling public.
“Unlike other businesses and airlines, we have avoided compulsory redundancies. Cabin crew face no pay cut or reduction in terms and conditions - and remain the best rewarded in the UK airline industry.”