British Airways passengers face a summer of travel chaos after the union representing cabin crew announced plans for a fresh strike ballot.
The UK flag carrier was forced to cancel more than 200 flights from its main base Heathrow airport over the long weekend. But as the second five-day walk out enters the third day, the union Unite has said a new ballot to extend the industrial action could take place as early as next week.
Union sources have suggested that Unite is considering switching tactics over the summer holidays, having failed to break BA with a series of strikes of several days at a time. This could leave the summer holiday plans of thousands in tatters.
Unite claims that the disruption has cost the airline £98 million pounds to date.
BA’s chief executive Willie Walsh says the airline need to save as much as £160 million annually in 10 years by hiring any new cabin crew on less generous wage deals.
A fresh ballot is required because the 12-week protective legal period for taking industrial action ends in early June. The result of the new vote is likely to be announced early next month.
Europe’s third-biggest airline is seeking to restore more services during the current round of stoppages after what it says is an increase in the number of cabin crew reporting for duty. The final round of five-day walkouts announced so far is scheduled to start on Saturday 5 June.
The carrier aims to operate more than 70 percent of long- haul services, compared with 60 percent during last week’s walkout, plus 55 percent of European routes, up from 50 percent.
“We will continue to fly as many passengers as we can,” British Airways spokesman Denny McGhee said.
Walsh and Unite joint General Secretary Tony Woodley will resume talks today, according to Unite, following a failure to reach a resolution on Friday. The focus will be on restoring travel perks to staff who took part in the initial stoppages in March.
Walsh is expected to travel to Manchester, where the union is holding its annual conference, to meet Woodley.
Woodley told 700 delegates that the blame for failing to settle the dispute lay with Walsh, and the “bullying” tactics.
He said: “We are not and never will be prepared to see our members and our union humiliated, victimised and reduced to ruins, as Willie Walsh seems to say.”
The union has also challenged BA to hold talks with them in front of television cameras, so the public can judge who is being unreasonable.
Unite’s leaders said that if travel perks were restored to 3,000 cabin crew who went out on strike they would suspend the final five-day strike in order to conclude a deal with BA. But BA sources said the airline believed this was only an offer to resume negotiations on the cost-cutting.