British Airways boss Walsh boasted at a meeting of selected staff at BA headquarters yesterday that he has 6,000 staff signed up to break any strike action by cabin crew.
He added that he has appealed to other airlines for support and that support was now forthcoming.
Following this ‘bring it on’ address, the Unite union’s assistant general secretary, Len McCluskey, commented: ‘It is deeply regrettable that BA’s CEO has chosen to adopt this inflammatory and confrontational stance at a time when we are engaged in meaningful talks with the company.
‘Again, we say to BA that the only way to resolve the issues before us is through negotiation. They certainly will not be addressed by attempting to intimidate employees.
‘Any suggestion that we have had only two hours talks in two weeks is utter nonsense.
‘For eight weeks Unite has been working hard to make these talks succeed and we will continue to do so, working round the clock if need be.
‘We have always said that negotiation, not confrontation, is the only way forward.
‘But it also remains our intention to support our members fully, which is why we are to appeal the recent High Court decision to allow BA to impose widespread changes to crew without consultation.’
In the recent ballot of Unite’s cabin crew members, eight out of ten (80.7 per cent) voted yes to industrial action on a 78.7 per cent turnout.
Any trade union action must begin by March 22 at the latest and Unite must give BA at least a week’s notice.
Unite states that this means that talks scheduled over the next 10 days will be crucial.
Union officials consider that, ‘There is a real fear that Walsh’s preferred way forward is a strike.’
The High Court has ruled twice in BA’s favour, overturning a planned 12-day Christmas strike and declaring that changes made to the cabin crew complement last November did not, as the union had claimed, breach contract law.
Cabin crew know that any appeal to the law courts to change the judge’s ruling that BA had a right to impose new contracts is bound to fail.
Dave Wiltshire the secretary of the All Trades Unions Alliance, told News Line yesterday: ‘Walsh is looking for a fight.
‘He is trampling all over workers’ terms and conditions of service and wants to set a precedent for every boss to follow.
‘He must be stopped. This issue is vital for every worker.
‘Unite must stand up and fight. It must tell Walsh that the use of scabs against the cabin crew will see every airport in the country stopped.
‘Further, Unite must go to the TUC and demand a general strike.
‘No boss can be allowed to treat workers as if they are slaves!’