BA dispute: End in sight?

By Peter Wozniak

A new improved offer for British Airways cabin crew is to be put to union members, raising hopes of a settlement to the year-and-a-half dispute.

Unite, which represents the cabin crew union BASSA, said the offer would be subjected to members’ scrutiny very shortly.

A Unite spokesman said: “The offer is the product of prolonged negotiations between the union and British Airways, assisted by the mediation service Acas and TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.

“The representatives agreed to put the offer to a ballot of cabin crew members as soon as possible.”

The offer follows tortuous meetings between the union and BA management, headed by Willie Walsh.

Neither party has revealed the nuts and bolts of the new offer, but it is being reported today that it represents an improvement in conditions on previous attempted deals.

The fact the offer has not been immediately dismissed has raised hopes it may signal the end of the 18-month industrial dispute, involving over twenty strike days at huge cost to the company. BA has reportedly lost £150 million.

The row had previously been dominated by acrimony from both sides, while further strikes were expected. The offer reached last night may be a breakthrough to the stalemate, though only if BASSA members approve.

BA has pushed for a downgrading in cabin crew’s term and conditions, arguing that the company is uncompetitive while its rivals’ crews receive smaller salaries and benefits.

The cabin crew have consistently fought Mr Walsh for attempting to scale back the terms of their contracts.

Tony Woodley, Unite’s joint general secretary, praised the cabin crew’s “exemplary solidarity”, calling the new proposals “the best that can be achieved in the current climate”.