British Airways faces strike from Jan 10 as crew members spurn pay deal

British Airways aircraft at Heathrow Airport in west London, England on Dec 16, 2007.
British Airways aircraft at Heathrow Airport in west London, England on Dec 16, 2007.PHOTO: EPA

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - British Airways (BA) flight attendants will walk out next week after the carrier declined to extend their right to strike in return for renewed pay talks following the rejection of the latest offer, according to the Unite union.

So-called "mixed fleet" cabin crew, who work on both short- and long-haul flights from London's Heathrow airport, will take action for 48 hours from Tuesday, Jan 10, the labour group said in a statement on its website.

Unite had scrapped calls for a walkout over the Christmas and Boxing Day holiday after BA proposed a new pay deal in talks at Britain's Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). Staff voted to reject the offer and the company subsequently declined to extend the strike mandate, the union said, adding that members must legally take action within 28 days of voting.

BA said it aims to ensure that all customers reach their destination during the planned disruption, with contingency measures to be detailed on Friday (Jan 6). It added that Unite could have extended its strike rights via a fresh ballot, and that there has been no approach about talks since the ACAS negotiations ended.

About 2,500 of the 4,500 cabin crew members who are on mixed-fleet contracts - out of about 16,000 flight attendants employed across BA - are Unite members and could potentially strike. A walkout would be the first since 22 days of action in 2010, after which crew accepted a deal including drastic pay cuts for new staff.

Salaries for mixed-fleet employees have been advertised as worth between 21,000 pounds (S$37,190) and 25,000 pounds a year, but in practice begin at 12,000 pounds plus 3 pounds for each hour flying, according to Unite.

BA, a unit of International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, says it has proposed "a fair and reasonable pay increase", in line with settlements at rival carriers. The company's first offer was worth an initial 2 per cent and 7 per cent over three years.

Details of the subsequent proposal rejected by Unite members have not been made public, though BA said that with new strike dates set that package has now been withdrawn.