STRIKE ON! ‘WALSH LOOKING FOR A WAR’ – says Unite leader Woodley

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British Airways cabin crew are taking three-days of strike action today, tomorrow and Monday and a further four-days strike action starting on March 27th.

After talks at the TUC ended yesterday lunchtime, Unite union leader Tony Woodley said BA boss Walsh and the ‘hawks’ had won, and that they wanted to wage ‘war’ on the union.

Speaking outside TUC headquarters yesterday, Woodley said: ‘Despite our offer that if the company put last week’s offer back on the table we would consult our members, unfortunately British Airways has not done that.

‘In fact what they’ve done is table an offer that is worse than the offer that was tabled last week.

‘That makes it absolutely impossible for us to go back to our members and reballot them under these circumstances.

‘I’m extremely disappointed for the travelling public, I’m extremely disappointed for our members and I’m extremely disappointed that the hawks in British Airways, that want a war as opposed to a negotiated settlement with my union, have won the day in this company.

‘The strikes will go ahead now, this union will of course support its members, we will remain open in the meantime to talk with the company if they wish to reconvene these negotiations.’

He added: ‘Unfortunately, Mr Walsh, being one of the hawks, was looking for a war with our members as opposed to a negotiated settlement.

‘There is absolutely no doubt that this is the second occasion that this company have missed the moment to call off this dispute, missed the moment that we could have put negotiations back on the table.

‘All he had to do, as I’ve said often now, was to reinstate the original deal, so that our members could have been consulted, and we would have called the strike off.

‘But I think it’s an absolute disgrace, and an insult to our people, that he tabled a deal that, for example on pay, put an extra year in and reduced the amount of pay that was on offer last week.

‘It is ridiculous to expect any union to go to its membership with a worse offer than was withdrawn last week and we can’t do that, so we are where we are, unfortunately.’

Woodley added: ‘My offer to the company last week was absolutely genuine. Leave the offer on the table, we will suspend the strikes and we will ballot our members on what their views are.’

He added: ‘I have said all the way through – this company wants ultimately to go to war with my members.

‘Unfortunately, the hawks on the British Airways board have won the day. The people who are prepared to negotiate sensibly and reach a realistic settlement have been outmanoeuvred, outfought and browbeaten.

‘So we are where we are. But the company if they make an offer available, we stand ready to meet.’

Walsh then came out and said: ‘By setting dates for industrial action BA has incurred significant additional expenses and I’ve made it clear to the trade union that that is an expense that must be recovered, so the financial value of the proposal that we have tabled is definitely not as attractive as the previous one.’

Asked about his threat to withdraw the BA travel concession from striking workers, Walsh stated: ‘That was not a threat, it was an adult statement to adult employees, where we said to them we will not continue to provide valuable perks and benefits to people who seek to inflict serious and ongoing damage to this company.

‘It was not a threat. When we said that travel concessions would be withdrawn that’s exactly what we meant and that’s exactly what will happen.’

l The RMT announced yesterday that signal workers at Network Rail have voted in favour of strike action against cuts in jobs and safety.

General Secretary Bob Crow said: ‘This is not about extra pay, better conditions, shorter working weeks, more holidays, this is about the safety of the railway network, and our members don’t believe it’s safe.

‘Modernisation in my opinion is not about cutting back on the number of people doing track inspections. We’ve got 1,500 people who go about the job, and they visually look at the track.

‘They are the eyes and ears of the railway. They see if there are holes in fences, they see if there are cracks in the rails and there’s no point in having a modernised railway network, with trains going at 140 miles an hour, if it means that the track underneath is not safe to run on.’