Last chance to avert BA strike

A last-ditch attempt to avert a strike by thousands of British Airways cabin crew will be made today.

A last-ditch attempt to avert a strike by thousands of British Airways cabin crew will be made today.

At the eleventh hour, just hours before the walkout is due to start, BA management and union officials will meet to try to break the deadlock in the bitter pay dispute.

BA management, led by chief executive Willie Walsh, spent all weekend negotiating with officials from the Transport and General Workers Union, including its general secretary, Tony Woodley.

The talks, at a secret location, failed to produce an early breakthrough despite some signs that progress was being made at resolving the row over sickness absence, pay and staffing.

Thousands of stewards and stewardesses are set to strike tomorrow and Wednesday, leading to the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights at Heathrow and Gatwick airports on those two days.

The action could lead to flights being cancelled this evening and on Thursday, because aircraft and crew will be out of position.

The stoppage will cost BA millions of pounds and will cause travel misery for more than 100,000 passengers.

Most have already switched to other airlines, cancelled their bookings or made other arrangements.

Neither side made any comment this weekend but unofficial sources said some progress had been made on some of the issues.

Most of the negotiations are believed to have centred on pay and sickness absence. Cabin crew have complained that since a crackdown on sickness 18 months ago they now have to go to work even if they are ill.

The airline has insisted that a new policy was agreed by the unions and was only introduced when the average number of days taken off sick by cabin crew workers grew to 22.

That has now been cut to 12 although it is still above the UK average of seven.

Meanwhile it emerged today that BA has offered to pay travel expenses, including taxi fares up to a maximum of £100 per journey, to cabin crew who work during the strike.

The airline has also offered to provide park and ride facilities and is allowing staff to turn up for work in casual clothes before changing into uniforms.

Union officials said the moves were “unhelpful” but stressed that their main focus was centred on the peace talks.

The union has called two three-day strikes from February 5 and February 12 unless the deadlock is broken.

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