BA DEADLINE PASSES – but no strike call by Unite

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TALKS between Unite and British Airways passed the second deadline of 12 midday yesterday.

This was after BA requested an extension when the first deadline was passed on Tuesday afternoon.

The TUC, which is chairing the meetings, had set a deadline of the ‘close of play’ on Tuesday March 9 for significant progress to be made.

This was put back to Wednesday midday, but talks were continuing yesterday afternoon.

Last month, BA crew voted for strike action over pay and working conditions, for the second time with a huge majority.

Unite had offered £60m of cost savings to try and end the dispute.

It had then offered to recognise the establishment of a second BA airline where staff would work on the terms and conditions of service that BA wished to impose, provided there was some compromise on the cabin crew levels for established cabin crew and on BA’s imposition of a two year wage freeze.

If no deal is made and BA refuse to accept any compromise, the union Unite must give a week’s notice of any stoppages, no later than March 15, but it has already given assurances that members will not walk out over Easter.

Should talks end without a resolution and the union decide to name strike dates immediately, industrial action could begin as early as March 17.

However, there were indications from sources close to the talks at TUC headquarter that if talks did break down it was by no means certain that strike dates would then be announced.

Many Unite cabin crew think that the Unite leadership does not want to call strike action despite the two massive votes for such action.

They think that the timidity of the Unite leaders has led to BA thinking that it is possible to bully the union off the airport completely.

Recently a High Court judge ruled that BA was within its rights to impose the changes, and break its agreements, to save money.

Union sources said yesterday that Unite may choose to appeal against that verdict rather than take strike action.

This would mean that the date for legal strike action would certainly be passed.

The message from cabin crew yesterday was that BA should not be allowed to get away with its attack on wages and jobs and that the action should be called at once and that it should be for the original 10 days.

BA has said that it has organised over 1,000 scabs to break any strike and that it will hire up to 23 fully crewed planes from a charter company to help run flights from Heathrow.

Dave Wiltshire, the general secretary of the All Trade Unions Alliance, told News Line yesterday that ‘BA and its strikebreaking plans should be challenged.

‘The whole of Unite should be brought out and the TUC should be asked to take strike action as well.

‘Barber (TUC General Secretary) has been at the talks so he knows what BA has been up to.’