BA workers warned yesterday that cabin crew at British Airways are ready to strike over job and pay cuts.

BA union convenors and shop stewards were holding an emergency meeting yesterday afternoon after the company announced plans to slash the pay of cabin crew on top of 1,700 sackings.

BA gave no details of the lower pay rates, but it was leaked that starter rates of pay for cabin crew could be as low as £14,000 a year, an up to 50 per cent cut on current wage rates.

The airline plans to cut cabin crew numbers from 14,000 to 12,300.

The changes are to be imposed by November 16th.

Union officials accused BA of ‘holding a gun’ to union members’ heads.

Speaking before the shop stewards meeting they warned BA’s announcement after months of talks in the summer, ‘inevitably brings a strike closer’.

Union officials have been ‘working flat out to find a negotiated solution’, but BA are ‘clearly not interested in compromise’ and preferred ‘conflict’ was their verdict.

Accusing BA bosses of ‘holding a gun to the heads of our members’, they pledged that the union ‘will not stand by while they push fewer and fewer people to do more and more work on less pay’.

The Unite attitude is that BA boss Willie Walsh is out to ‘turn a premier airline into a low-cost operator’.

In addition to cabin crew cuts, BA is also looking to cut ground staff pay and jobs.

Their union representative, Mick Rix, of the GMB said that the 7,000 members he represents would not accept a similar attempt by the company to impose cuts on them.

He said: ‘I think this brings us a step closer to industrial action.’

BA warned of mounting losses if action was not taken as it unveiled the latest cost-cutting move.

BA chief executive Willie Walsh said in a message to staff that he saw ‘little or no evidence’ of any green shoots of economic recovery in the aviation industry.

He said in a leaked internal memo that ‘talks with the cabin crew union Unite have been very slow and after nine months of consultation and negotiation, we have made little or no progress.’

He added: ‘We are not making a profit and this year, like last, will see significant losses.

‘This is not a temporary problem and it won’t disappear if we just keep talking.’

Walsh said that Heathrow-based crew costs were ‘way out of line’ with competitors and much more than cabin crew costs at Gatwick.

He stressed: ‘We simply cannot afford this cost difference with competitors biting at our heels.’