The bitter British Airways cabin crew dispute is on the verge of being resolved following a breakthrough in crucial talks aimed at ending the long-running row.
Members of Unite union will meet near Heathrow airport today to hear details of a proposed deal and decide whether it should go out to a ballot to finally end the row.
It is understood that progress has been made on the two main sticking points involving the removal of travel concessions for workers who went on strike last year, and disciplinary action against dozens of Unite members.
The proposed deal will also cover the issue of time off for union reps as well as the ability of Unite to represent staff working on BA’s so-called new fleet.
Pay is also expected to be covered by the proposed agreement, which will be explained to today’s mass meeting by Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey.
Any ballot will start within the next few weeks, with the result likely in July, ending any fears of further disruption to BA flights this summer.
It is understood that union officials will recommend the deal to cabin crew, who will then have to decide if they want a ballot or if it should be rejected, which would raise the prospect of more industrial action.
Hopes were high last night that the dispute, the longest and most bitter in the UK transport industry for years, was close to being resolved, although neither Unite or BA would make any public comment ahead of the mass meeting, which will be told details of talks between Mr McCluskey and BA’s chief executive Keith Williams.
The dispute started more than 18 months ago over cost-cutting but developed into a row over travel concessions taken away from union members who went on strike.
Members of Unite staged 22 days of strikes last year which cost BA over £150m (€172m) and there have since been threats of further walkouts, which has soured industrial relations at the airline.
Travel concessions were removed from those who took industrial action and there were a number of disciplinary cases taken against Unite members.
The two sides came close to a deal last year, but peace hopes collapsed, leaving the dispute deadlocked.
BA’s former chief executive, Willie Walsh, moved on to head the airline’s merger with Spanish carrier Iberia, and Unite elected Mr McCluskey to succeed former joint general secretaries Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson.
The change in leaderships gave a fresh impetus to moves to resolve the row, leading to new talks in recent weeks.
Unite members voted recently to stage more strikes, but the union held back from naming dates in a sign that progress could be made.
Around 7,000 Unite members were affected by the removal of travel concessions, an issue at the top of the union’s agenda for resolving the dispute.