The strike by British Airways cabin crew has entered a fourth day after fresh talks last night failed to reach an agreement. However the beleaguered airline has found an unlikely ally in Ryanair chief executive, Michael O’Leary, who praised its management for the handling of the dispute and its endeavours to break the union stanglehold.
“BA management has done a good job,” O’Leary said. “A more intelligent union leadership would do a deal.”
The sticking point between Unite and BA is the airline’s removal of travel perks from striking staff.
The union has offered to call off the strikes if the travel concessions are reinstated, ahead of agreeing a final deal. BA says it has offered to put these concessions back in place, but only as part of a final agreement.
There was no indication as to whether any progress had been made last night. A spokesman for the conciliation service Acas said it would contact both sides to organise a future meeting date.
The current strike is the second of three five-day walkouts planned by BA cabin crew, and is scheduled to end of Thursday. The final strike is due to start on Saturday.
But the union’s power has waned somewhat during the dispute. BA has managed to operate more than 70 per cent of long-haul flights this week, up from just 60 per cent during the March strikes.
It says it will operate more than 80 per cent of its long haul flights during the next strike as “growing numbers” of cabin crew return to work. This includes plans to operate all flights to South Africa ahead of the World Cup – although the England team have erred on the side of caution by flying Virgin Atlantic (they are set to travel to South Africa tonight ahead of the tournament starting next Friday).
Barring an agreement, Unite has threatened that it could hold a further ballot for strike action during the peak summer holiday months of July and August.