Talks aimed at ending the bitter British Airways dispute will resume tomorrow as a strike by cabin crew enters its fifth day.
The airline’s chief executive Willie Walsh met with the joint leaders of the Unite union, Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, for six hours yesterday, with little sign of a breakthrough to the long-running row.
Unite will drive a bus through central London tomorrow, displaying a banner which reads “Brutish Airways” as part of the union’s campaign against suspensions and sackings of staff who have taken industrial action.
Striking cabin crew will gather at Speakers’ Corner, wearing red-coloured gags, to highlight the alleged “culture of fear” at BA as a result of the dispute.
Unite said almost 70 workers have now been suspended or sacked, some for “trivial” reasons.
The union said this week’s strikes, coupled with seven days of action in March, had cost BA £84m.
A further five-day walkout is due to start on Sunday, the day before Unite opens its national conference in Manchester, with a further five-day stoppage due to begin on June 5.
The location of the peace talks was kept secret following the dramatic scenes last weekend when members of the Socialist Workers Party invaded the building where the two sides were meeting, forcing the talks to be abandoned.
BA said it will increase its flying schedule next week as more cabin crew than expected had decided to work as normal during this week’s industrial action.
The airline said said it will increase its Heathrow long-haul schedule to more than 70% of flights (up from more than 60% this week), and its short-haul schedule from the airport to more than 55% of flights (up from more than 50% this week). The airline said it would continue to fly to every short-haul destination on its network.
BA said: “Due to the numbers of crew wanting to work normally at Gatwick, all flights will continue to operate as scheduled during the very busy half-term break as families fly out to many popular holiday destinations. Flights at London City airport will also operate as normal.
“At this stage British Airways expects to fly more than 75% of customers who hold a booking between May 30 and June 3. This equates to around 65,000 customers flying each day.
“Many thousands more will be able to use seats we have secured on more than 50 other airlines to reach their destination, if they still wish to travel, or be rebooked on to an alternative BA flight departing within the next 355 days.
“Refunds are also available for customers whose flights have been cancelled. The airline will continue to lease up to eight aircraft from other UK or European airlines to supplement its short-haul schedule at Heathrow.”
The talks will be held under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas.
Earlier, Mr Woodley repeated his offer to suspend the strikes if BA restored travel concessions to staff who have been on strike.
He said he hoped the two sides could pick up the momentum they achieved during the talks on Saturday before negotiations ended in disarray after the activists managed to enter the building in central London and surround Mr Walsh.