British Airways was bracing for a lengthy strike by cabin crew this morning, as talks with the Unite union to resolve differences over pay and conditions broke down.
Both sides are reported to have submitted concessions as a midnight deadline approached on Wednesday, but talks failed to produce a compromise.
Staff could now walk out as soon as next Thursday, following the minimum notice period of seven days. Unite must confirm strike dates by March 15th, but has already pledged not to act over the Easter period. A strike in March is therefore expected.
The TUC has been hosting the talks between the two parties with general secretary, Brendan Barber, saying the two sides has been unable to reach a compromise despite “a prolonged period of negotiations”.
“Both parties will be reflecting on the position and the TUC will be keeping in touch but at this stage no further negotiations are planned,” he added.
British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association (Bassa), the TUC’s aviation branch, has outlined plans for a strike of up to ten days.
The decision follows ballot of 12,000 British Airways staff in February, in which 81 per cent voted in favour of industrial action.
Negotiations Breaking Down
British Airways and Unite have been in negotiations for months, as the airline seeks to cut costs by £60 million in an effort to stem huge financial losses.
Changes have included cutting the number of cabin crew on long-haul flights and curtailing some of the fringe benefits enjoyed by crew.
The British flag-carrier has also proposed new contracts for new recruits at the airline; with details including a single on-board management grade, no seniority, promotion on merit, and pay set at the market rate plus ten per cent.
However, the changes have been opposed by Unite, stating staff would take a 2.6 per cent pay cut to lower costs.
On Monday Unite submitted further proposals for saving £60m, including partial repeal of the staffing cuts and the acceptance of new recruits on lower pay on to a separate fleet.
However, British Airways argues these changes would not lead to the savings required – with the two sides reportedly £10 million apart.
BA chief executive Willie Walsh has detailed strike breaking plans, with 1,000 volunteer cabin crew drawn from the ranks of its 38,000-strong workforce expected to staff flights, with the airline also planning to hire a fleet of 23 chartered jets.
Last month BA confirmed it lost £342m for the last nine months of 2009. That followed an annual loss of more than £400m reported in May.