British Airways cabin crew have voted in favour of strikes in a bitter row over jobs and working conditions, raising the renewed threat of action which could cripple flights in the run-up to Easter, it was announced today.
Members of the Unite union voted massively in favour of launching a campaign of industrial action in a long running dispute over cost cutting measures, including reductions in crew numbers.
Unite will hold a mass meeting of workers on Thursday when strike dates are set to be announced, although the union has ruled out taking action over Easter.
The union will have to give seven days’ notice of any strikes to the airline, which has been training other staff, including pilots, to take the place of cabin crew if action is held.
The cabin crew were due to take 12 days of strike action over Christmas but BA won a legal challenge after it emerged that the union had balloted hundreds of members who subsequently left the airline.
Unite lost a second legal case last week when it failed to argue that changes to working practices and reductions in crew numbers were unlawful.
More than 80% of those who voted said yes to industrial action on a turnout of 78%.
The union has not announced any dates for strikes stressing that “meaningful negotiations” were the only way to resolve the dispute.
Unite said 7,482 of its members voted in favour of action, with 1,789 voting against.
The vote was only slightly below a 9-1 ballot result last year.
Len McCluskey, assistant general secretary of Unite, said: “With this overwhelming vote in the teeth of BA harassment and media misrepresentation, BA’s cabin crew have made clear that the deep sense of grievance they feel about their treatment by their employer remains.”
BA said in a statement: "The outcome of Unite's ballot is very disappointing and brings a renewed threat of industrial action, which is completely unjustified.
“In the weeks before and during the ballot period, Unite claimed that we had breached individual crew members’ contracts by making modest changes to on-board crew numbers on flights from Heathrow.
“We have always said this claim was false and it was rejected by the High Court three days ago.”
BA said most people will have voted before Friday’s court decision and said it hopes the union will bear this in mind as it considered its next steps.
The company said some progress had been made during recent talks held at the TUC, but added: “We will not allow Unite to ruin this company. Should a strike take place, we will do everything we can to protect our customers’ travel plans as far as possible.”