BA ‘Rambo’ Walsh Returns To Talks


MASSIVE, worldwide support for the British Airways cabin crew yesterday forced BA boss Walsh back to the negotiating table with the Unite union.

Aviation unions around the world have responded to the call for solidarity, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) reported.

Unions in over 120 countries, representing cabin crew, pilots, ground staff, baggage handlers and air traffic controllers, declared their support for the BA staff.

The ITF said: ‘The unions are backing the dispute involving workers employed at British Airways (BA) and represented by the UK union Unite.

‘Those supporting the workers include: the US-based Teamsters union, with whom Unite is holding meetings; the Transport Workers’ Union of Australia and German union, Verdi.

‘Other unions in Argentina, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, India and Spain also expressed solidarity with the workers.’

Six French unions said that they would walk out for three days on March 28, during the second, four-day strike by BA cabin crew.

And pilots in Portugal will strike from March 26 to 31.

After these declarations of solidarity, British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh, who up until yesterday had been insisting there was nothing to discuss, went into last-ditch talks with Unite Joint General Secretary Tony Woodley.

Coming out of Unite’s headquarters in central London, Woodley said: ‘At least we’re talking, that’s the good news.

‘But at the moment there’s only talks and certainly no breakthrough and no acceptable way forwards for us.

‘I’m still optimistic. The good news is we’re in the same room and we’re still talking.’

Woodley added: ‘I promised the passengers if Walsh retabled his offer, or even better an improved offer, then this strike would be postponed and we’d ballot our members.’

The Unite leader headed back to his talks with Walsh, being held at the Congress House headquarters of the TUC nearby.

If the talks fail, then there will be a three-day strike this weekend, followed by a four-day strike from March 27.

Earlier in the day yesterday, Unite said its cabin crew members had been subjected to a campaign of harassment and intimidation, with 38 crew members suspended or disciplined so far.

‘Cabin crew under the management of Willie Walsh have been victims of a disgraceful witch-hunt,’ said Unite assistant general secretary, Len McCluskey.

The bullying and harassment showed ‘the lengths BA will go to gag and intimidate cabin crew and destroy trade unionism’, McCluskey added.

BA claims it will be able to carry 49,000 passengers a day (65 per cent of its passengers) during the first three days of planned strike action, using extra ‘volunteers’.

But that claim is now looking very shaky, to say the least, after unions worldwide pledged not to work with untrained flight crew.

In fact, a total of 1,100 flights out of the 1,950 scheduled to operate during the first three days of strike action will be cancelled, it emerged yesterday.

Unite’s cabin crew members voted by more than 92 per cent when they were first balloted to strike in defence of their jobs, terms and working conditions.