Only 216 volunteers have offered to replace British Airways cabin crew in the event of industrial action, according to the worker’s union Unite.
The trade union claims that a programme to retrain employees as air stewards during industrial action would replace less than 2% of BA’s cabin crew.
Unite trade union poured scorn on the airline’s plans to cope with possible industrial action, labelling it a “scab labour” drive.
The ballot opened yesterday to vote on a walkout over staffing cuts. It closes on 22 February, and the earliest possible strike date is 1 March, although Unite has already ruled out an Easter walkout.
“With a cabin crew of 13,500 does BA seriously think this handful of inexperienced individuals will be able to operate a service?” asked Len McCluskey, Unite assistant general secretary.
BA has announced that it is seeking volunteers ready to undergo a basic training course which would enable a handful of some of its 650 daily flights to operate.
The airline, which declined to disclose how many volunteers it had found, said its contingency plans were intended to enable the airline to “operate the best flying programme possible under the circumstances”.
Those undergoing the training course, which has been approved by the Civil Aviation Authority, will be given instruction in some of the key safety areas - such as aircraft layout, first aid and how to operate the emergency exits.
BA has told staff with no flying experience they can qualify as cabin crew within three weeks, with pilots able to meet safety standards within five days.
A spokesman added: “Any temporary crew will be trained to meet all the standards and requirements of British Airways and all regulatory authorities. The safety of our customers and staff is always our over-riding priority and we would never do anything to compromise that.”
Balpa, the pilots’ union, has vowed to remain neutral during the vote, while the GMB union, which represents 7,000 BA employees, has condemned the attempt to recruit replacement cabin crew.