THE Labour Transport Secretary Lord Adonis yesterday demanded that Unite cancel the planned strike action by British Airways cabin crew, despite an overwhelming vote in favour of action by Unite’s cabin crew members.
Speaking for the government, Adonis said this month’s planned strikes were ‘totally unjustified’ and even claimed they threatened ‘the future of one of our great companies’.
Unite said Adonis would be seen as ‘taking the part of a bullying and intransigent management’.
The first strike by BA cabin crew is due to run between March 20 and 22, with a second strike from March 27-30.
But Unite leaders said they would not call strike action during the Easter Holidays and even offered to put BA’s offer directly to their members in an indicative ballot and cancel the strike action if it was accepted.
This was rejected by BA boss Walsh.
Staff allege bullying and intimidation by BA bosses since voting twice – the first time by over 92 per cent – in favour of strike action in defence of their jobs and working conditions.
The first ballot was outlawed by the High Court, which supported BA’s application against the ballot.
The second ballot delivered a vote of more than 80 per cent in favour of action.
BA bosses say they have trained other staff in an effort to break the cabin crew strike.
Adonis said: ‘Let’s be absolutely clear the stakes are incredibly high in this strike and I absolutely deplore the strike.
‘It’s totally unjustified, this strike, on the merits of the issues at stake and I do call on the union to engage constructively with the company.’
A spokesman for Unite responded yesterday that its cabin crew members ‘want to avoid strike action’, and that the union ‘is always ready to negotiate’.
Unite pleaded to Adonis to make a public statement calling on British Airways to ‘put back on the table’ the offer it made at the end of last week and then withdrew.
‘If Lord Adonis is not prepared to speak out, he risks being seen as taking the part of a bullying and intransigent management,’ Unite’s spokesman said.
Chancellor Alastair Darling said he was ‘very, very clear’ that ‘the two sides must get down and try and sort this out’ without inconveniencing the public or the economy.
Darling said: ‘I’m very clear that strikes, particularly a strike like this, particularly just before the Easter break, is extremely damaging for the travelling public, of course it’s damaging to the airline.’
Darling said that ‘people need to think long and hard about the consequences of what they do’.
Unite said last Friday that the union’s leaders had bent over backwards to offer cost-cutting proposals to avoid a strike, but these were rejected by BA bosses.
Unite assistant general secretary, Len McCluskey, warned that BA was out to smash trade unionism at Heathrow and Gatwick.