British Airways could endure strike action over Easter after cabin crew agreed to take part in a new ballot.
Unite has given the airline a week’s notice of what will be its fourth ballot in two years – with the result due to be declared on March 28. A yes vote could lead to industrial action in April, disrupting not only Easter, but also the Royal Wedding on April 29.
In December 78 per cent of cabin crew, who took part in the ballot, voted in favour of industrial action.
BA workers voted last month for further stoppages, but the Unite union said earlier this month it would hold a new vote after a “legal blitz” by the airline.
Officials within the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA), Unite’s cabin crew branch, said the action was aimed at causing maximum damage to the airline while having minimal impact on cabin crew taking part in industrial action.
The row began about cost cutting but now centres on travel concessions taken from striking staff and disciplinary action against Unite union members.
Unite says that “systemic anti-union activity” at BA is hindering negotiations.
It says that since 2010, 18 union members have been sacked and another 70 suspended, including a third of the local union leadership.
“If BA’s management believes that it can secure industrial harmony by these methods, it is living in a fools’ paradise,” said Unite general secretary Len McCluskey.
“Only negotiation, not litigation or intimidation, can start to heal the wounds caused by this dispute.”
Strike options include calling stoppages and then cancelling them at the last minute, leaving the airline having to pay both regular crew and other members of staff, including some pilots, who took over from strikers.
Last year 22 days of industrial action cost the airline an estimated £150 million, and led to hundreds of cancellations.
It also did huge damage to BA’s reputation and Unite believes uncertainty over industrial action will hit the airline’s bookings at one of the busiest periods of the year.
A BA spokesman condemned the latest strike threat. “Apart from a tiny minority of hardliners, everyone now wants this dispute to be over. It is time for Unite to reflect the mood of its members and seek to promote discussion, not disruption.
“Should there be any further industrial action, we will implement our well-established contingency plans. We will fly a full schedule at London City and London Gatwick.
We are also planning to fly 100 per cent of our Heathrow long haul operation and a substantial part of our Heathrow short haul schedule.”