Showdown talks to avoid strike action at British Airways have entered a second day, with unions “optimistic” a deal can be reached in time.
Cabin crew at the British flag-carrier are due to begin three days of industrial action tomorrow, with a further four days of strikes planned from March 27th.
In an effort to avoid the planned stoppages, British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh and Unite joint leader Tony Woodley met face-to-face for the first time yesterday.
After adjourning just before midnight last night, the two sides will reconvene this morning.
“We are at least talking – that’s the good news. But at the moment there are only talks and certainly no breakthrough and no acceptable way forward for us,” said Mr Woodley.
“But I am still optimistic and that’s why I’m going back.”
While British Airways has been preparing contingency plans should the strike go ahead, Unite has been seeking to foster support internationally.
Unions in America, Germany, and Australia have stated they will support industrial action, with cabin crew at Air France set to stage a “solidarity strike” later this month.
However, Unite’s actions have been widely condemned closer to home.
Prime minister Gordon Brown, business secretary Lord Mandelson and transport secretary Lord Adonis have condemned the action as “disproportionate”, “ill timed” and “deplorable”.
The Conservative party have pointed out Unite is a major financial donor to the Labour Party, with strike action potentially casting the government in a negative light ahead of an expected May 6th election.
In full-page newspaper advertisements today, Mr Walsh said a “significant number” of cabin crew would work during the strike and the majority of BA staff did not support the action.
“Unite has made the wrong decision and misjudged the mood of our times,” he wrote. “My door remains open to Unite.”
The airline has said it hopes to operate two thirds of its planned scheduled during the first strike, with as many as 60 international airlines offering assistance.
As many as 1,000 cabin crew have also volunteered from within the ranks of British Airways.
All flights with London City Airport are expected to depart on time, while long-haul services from London Heathrow and London Gatwick are also likely to operate.
However, short-haul flights – both within the UK and to European destinations – are expected to be hard hit.
The latest information from British Airways can be found here.