Monday, March 22, 2010

BAs strike

British Airways was facing its third day of disruption, and its busiest, following the weekend walk-out by members of the Unite union in a bitter row over cost-cutting and jobs.

The UK's reputation is being hit by the British Airways strike, business leaders warned today, as both sides in the dispute continued to argue fiercely over the impact of the industrial action.

The union claimed today that more than 140 BA aircraft were standing idle at Heathrow, the airport worst affected by the dispute.

An official also maintained that fewer than 300 crew had volunteered to stand in for strikers and accused the airline of counting inbound crew to inflate the numbers of staff on duty.

BA said 97.6% of its Gatwick crew and 52% of Heathrow crew reported to work as normal over the weekend.

A spokesman said: "We will continue to offer the fullest support to our cabin crew who want to work as normal."

BA said it reinstated a number of cancelled flights this weekend after maintaining that more crew than expected had turned up for work.

Business group London First, whose members include many of London's internationally-based businesses, said the capital's reputation as a centre for global trade was being damaged by the strike.

Chief executive Baroness Valentine said: "Despite the best efforts of BA management and many staff to continue to put the interests of passengers first, the strike is reminiscent of a best-forgotten era.

"The message from BA's London-based business customers to both sides is: Get back to the negotiating table, and to union members: Get back to work in the meantime."

Tony Woodley, joint leader of Unite, who called yesterday on BA chairman Martin Broughton and "sensible" directors to intervene in the dispute, will address strikers at a meeting near Heathrow today.

He said he was certain that the vast majority of Unite members had joined the strike, which will end at midnight tonight.

The union has called a four-day strike from next Saturday and has warned of further action from mid-April unless the deadlocked row is resolved.

BA had to axe a number of incoming flights to Heathrow today, including services from Toronto, Philadelphia, Houston, Cairo and Dubai. Short-haul incoming flights to the west London airport that were cancelled included Amsterdam, Zurich and Paris.

BA flights leaving Heathrow that were cancelled included services to Lisbon, Nice and Malaga.