Crew strike threatens BA future says minister
London, March 14, 2010
British Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis urged cabin crew at British Airways to call off their planned strikes this month, saying it threatened the company's very existence.
Cabin crew are due to walk out for seven days this month after talks between the airline and unions on changes to working practices broke down. Analysts say the dispute could cost the airline around 140 million pounds ($212 million).
Asked if the strike put the future of British Airways in danger, Adonis told the BBC: 'Yes I do ... The stakes are incredibly high in this strike.'
'It is not only the damage it is going to do to passengers and the inconvenience it is going to cause, which is quite disproportionate to the issues at stake, but also the threat it poses to the future of one of our great companies.'
The planned strike would 'threaten the very existence of British Airways,' he said.
The Unite union said on Friday its members would strike for three days from March 20 and for four days from March 27, while BA removed a formal offer made to staff on Thursday, saying it had been conditional on Unite not naming any strike dates.
Adonis said the strike would be deeply damaging to the economy and could threaten the jobs of the union's members.
'They (the union) should call off this strike. They should get back into negotiations with British Airways again. They came very, very close to an agreement last week, so close that I believe that if they could continue these negotiations in a constructive way it would be possible to call this strike off,' he said.
Adonis said there was a short window before British Airways had to announce what would happen to flights if the strike went ahead.
'In this short window I implore the union to get together with the management and to see whether at this late stage a solution can be found,' he said.
BA's chief executive, Willie Walsh, has said the airline must move away from its old, inefficient ways if long-term survival is to be ensured.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has accused BA management of seeking to 'destroy trade unionism among its employees'.
BA said Unite's proposals to save the airline money fell significantly short of helping it reach its 60 million-pound cost-saving target and would leave crew much worse off.
BA has trained staff from other areas of the company to fill in as cabin crew during the strike and has said it will hire 23 fully-crewed planes from charter companies to help run flights from London's Heathrow airport. - Reuters