British Airways cabin crew are to vote on a new deal to end their bitter dispute and prevent the threat of more strikes this Christmas.
Leaders of Unite union have made sufficient progress in negotiations with the airline to hold a ballot of the 12,000 staff, although details of the offer have not been made public.
The move also marks a coup for BA chief executive Willie Walsh who this week vowed that he “will not back down” in the dispute and is ready to run a near-full service in the event of another strike at Christmas.
Unite said in a statement: “There will be a consultative ballot on the offer, and we’re working to get this underway as soon as practically possible.”
Tony Woodley, joint General Secretary of Unite said: “Representatives agreed that it is the best that can be achieved through negotiation in the current climate. Our members… will now decide whether this offer meets their requirements.”
Unite members are expected to vote next week, with the result expected in mid-November.
If they accept the deal it will signal the end of the year-long row, which started over cost cutting but worsened when BA disciplined union members and withdrew travel concessions from cabin crew who went on strike.
Unite would have to hold a fresh ballot for industrial action if the deal was rejected, but if members accepted, the bitter dispute would be over.
The Unite camp is currently torn between the hard-liners of the union’s cabin crew branch - the British Airline Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA) – who may scupper the peace deal and press for more strikes, and the moderates who want to see an end to the long-running dispute.
British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh capitalised on the split. He said it was “entirely” the fault of Unite that the dispute had dragged on for 12 months, adding that changes to working practices should have been tackled a decade ago.
“In the past I have seen managers and businesses ignore issues and back down in the face of industrial action. We are not going to do that.”