‘Suspend – not stop indefinitely – suspend your imposition. This strike will be off,’ Unite transport union leader Tony Woodley pledged yesterday.
He was speaking as British Airways went to the High Court, to try and get the judiciary to declare strike action by BA cabin crew illegal.
The dispute was triggered by BA’s imposition in November of new working practices, which would see between one and three crew members taken off flights.
Tony Woodley, Unite joint general secretary (TGWU), said: ‘I speak to our cabin crew and I don’t think it’s a question of people not being in the real world here.
‘That’s why our cabin crew have said to the company they’re prepared to take cuts.
‘They’re having a wage cut, as I’ve said two and a half per cent permanently they’re prepared to give, even under the company’s figures, £53 million worth of savings. That’s more than the company save with the imposition.
‘Does that sound like a workforce that aren’t acting responsibly.
‘Likewise with pensions, they’ve increased their pensions contributions, they’ve taken a reduction in benefits – only a year ago – to show willing at times of great difficulty for the company.
‘But this company have got to understand there’s a difference between negotiating change with decent sense with hard-working men and women and just imposing things because you think you can get away with it.
‘That’s not acceptable. We’re going to support our members, but more importantly we’ve got an obligation here to support the travelling public and that’s why we are demanding a pause for peace and we want Willie Walsh to come back to the negotiating table.’
As the High Court was hearing BA’s application for an injunction to stop the strike, union leaders Simpson and Woodley went into talks with BA boss Walsh.
The High Court then announced that it would hold off making a decision about whether to declare the strike illegal until today.
Unite said it hoped to ‘move from confrontation to negotiation’ adding that it was ‘pleased that the company has seen sense’.
Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of Unite (Amicus), had already suggested that a 12-day strike could be ‘over the top’.
BA is seeking to impose sweeping changes to pay and conditions, make 3,000 staff part-time and cut cabin crew levels.
Unite said the company was dismantling long-standing collective agreements on working conditions and pay structures.
The union balloted its members on a strike after failing to obtain a court order blocking the staffing changes.
Meanwhile, 55 porters at Gatwick are to strike for two hours tomorrow and on Saturday, in protest at a pay freeze, while 70 train drivers and 20 on-board staff will also strike on Eurostar.