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British Airways Flight Crew On 3 Day Strike

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Aug 2, 2009
LONDON - British Airways was scrambling Saturday to deal with the start of a three-day strike by its cabin crew that has thrown the plans of thousands of travelers into chaos.
BA chartered planes from rival airlines, drafted in volunteer crew from among its other work force and rebooked some passengers on other services in a bid to keep as many passengers happy as possible.
Chief Executive Willie Walsh issued a direct apology to passengers via YouTube, saying it was a "terrible day for BA."
The Eurostar train service between London and continental Europe and Virgin's rail services between London and Scotland were expected to be busy as passengers sought alternate routes.
The Unite union has gathered some support from unions in the United States, Germany and Spain for its action, but they have so far stopped short of pledges for coordinated activity that would disrupt BA's ability to refuel and service the planes it is operating over the walkout.

As protesters were readying picket lines Saturday outside London's Heathrow international airport, analysts estimated that BA has already lost more than 25 million pounds (more than $37 million) because of canceled tickets and contingency costs.
Aside from hurting BA, the strike is also an unwelcome event for Britain's governing Labour Party before national elections expected before June.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown irritated Unite, a major political donor, by calling the union "deplorable," and as late as Friday evening was urging it to call off the strike.
Britain was facing more possible travel chaos in the run-up to the Easter break, as railway signal workers voted last week to join rail maintenance workers in a strike. The Rail Maritime and Transport union has not called dates for the walkout, but refused to rule out the long Easter weekend on April 2-5.
And over this weekend, engineering works on the London Underground were forcing closures between central London and Heathrow, though the Heathrow Express train service was operating as normal.
"As the country struggles out of the recession, the last thing we need is the unions holding the country to ransom," said Theresa Villiers, the opposition Conservative Party's transport spokeswoman.
BA said it would handle as many as 49,000 passengers on both Saturday and Sunday. That compares with the average 75,000 for a normal weekend day in March.
At its Heathrow base, more than 60 percent of long-haul flights will operate, but only 30 percent of short-haul. At Gatwick, all long-haul flights and more than half short-haul flights will run as normal.
BA said some passengers avoided the disruption flying a day earlier, including some flying to the Six Nations rugby match between France and England in Paris on Saturday evening.
The BA chief, Walsh, said he had "no concern whatsoever" about the threat of solidarity actions in other countries.
Nevertheless, the U.S. International Brotherhood of Teamsters urged travelers to find alternatives.
"We are keenly aware of British Airways' operations in the United States and the cities served by the airline," said the Teamsters, representing 40,000 aviation industry workers. "We continue to look at this situation as it evolves and are keeping our options open."
Unite argues it was not properly consulted on the changes -- including a pay freeze in 2010, a switch to part-time work for 3,000 staff and a reduction in cabin crew sizes from 15 to 14 on long-haul flights from Heathrow.
BA says the disputed changes are critical to the airline's survival. On Friday, the airline said it offered to modify the changes, even though they had been approved by Britain's High Court, but Unite declined to put the offer to a member vote.
Walsh said it was "deeply regrettable" that the union rejected the airline's proposals.
But Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley said BA "does not want to negotiate and ultimately wants to go to war with this union."
Unite has a second, four-day walkout planned to begin on March 27, and said more strikes will be scheduled for after April 14 if the dispute is not resolved. It has pledged not to walk out over the busy Easter period


British Airways was claiming victory on Saturday night after the first day of strike action by cabin crew ended in bitterness and recrimination. By Andrew Alderson, Patrick Sawer, David Harrison

Published: 9:00PM GMT 20 Mar 2010

Air crew arrives at Heathrow, where half the British Airways staff turned up for work as normal Photo: REUTERS

The airline said that 100 per cent of its staff had turned up to work as normal at Gatwick and half had reported for duty at Heathrow. It predicts around two thirds of its passengers will take up their scheduled flights during the three-day strike.
BA hailed the success of "the biggest contingency operation we have ever organised" and said some stand-in, volunteer staff were even sent home because more crew had turned up than anticipated.

Last night the airline, which employs a total of 13,500 cabin crew, was rescheduling some long-haul and short-haul flights which it had expected to have to cancel over the next two days of the strike, organised by Unite.

The union, which has 12,000 BA cabin crew members, hit back last night and also claimed a resounding success for its first day of industrial action and it insisted BA's contingency plans had failed.

The union said 80 per cent of its members had stood firm and that the airline had only been able to fly a third of its intended flights. It said that flight cancellations meant that 85 BA planes were parked inactively at Heathrow and a further 20 aircraft were parked at both Cardiff and Shannon airports.

Despite persistent rumours that secret talks were under way yesterday in an attempt to break the deadlock, both sides insisted that had been no fresh new negotiations and that none were planned.

The strike, the first by BA cabin crew in 13 years, went ahead after talks over pay and conditions ended in deadlock on Friday. A second wave of industrial action is scheduled for next weekend.

As the war of words escalated between the two sides yesterday, Willie Walsh, the chief executive of the airline, described the strike as a "terrible day" for BA. However, the company insisted: "We continue to offer the fullest support to our cabin crew who want to work as normal."

BA predicts that 65 per cent of passengers will still be able to reach their destination during the first three-day strike, even though a total of 1,100 flights out of the 1,950 scheduled to operate are expected to be cancelled.

BA has arranged with more than 60 other airlines to take its customers on their flights during the strike.

Tony Woodley, Unite's joint leader, accused BA of wanting a "war" with the union and complained that Mr Walsh had tabled a worse offer than the one withdrawn earlier.
Mr Woodley said that he had been set "mission impossible" because of the new offer, which included a four-year pay deal the union maintained would at best freeze wages until 2014.
It can be revealed that some female cabin staff braved the threat of intimidation by union workers to go to work as normal yesterday.
Some of those who worked had received threatening emails on Friday night, one of which read: "If any of you go into work tomorrow, your life won't be worth living.''
A strikebreaker, who asked to be known only as Suzy for fear of recriminations, admitted she was terrified by the prospect of turning up for work as a volunteer.
"My stomach is churning. I don't know what I'm going to face. I just know I am going to be on board that plane, reassuring passengers, sorting out the seating, the food. Doing my job,'' she said.
"Usually workers – quite rightly – fear not doing what the boss asks. But we are just as frightened not to do what the union asks.''
Some cabin crew had to pass through picket lines to get to work, but there were no reports of violence. Tall screens were erected outside the crew report centre at Heathrow to protect volunteer staff from intimidation.
On the picket lines along the airport's Perimeter Road yesterday, union members shouted "shame on you, shame on you", at staff buses carrying those cabin crews who had decided to defy the strikes.
Some of the strikebreakers hid their identity by crouching on the floor of the buses taking them in.
There was little chaos at the major airports because most passengers had learnt in advance, by email, text or telephone, that their flights were cancelled and that they should not turn up.
Those who did were relatively relaxed. Bryan Collins, 21, a student hoping to fly from Heathrow's Terminal 5, said: "I checked this morning and they said 60 per cent of customers would be flying today so I guess we should be OK."
According to an opinion poll carried out in the days before the walkout, only one in four supports the action.
A survey by ICM, for BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House programme, found 60 per cent believed the industrial action was "unjustified", with 25 per cent expressing support.
The research also found that more than a third (36 per cent) believed it was "unacceptable in today's society" for workers to have the right to walk out at all.
This newspaper has learnt that Unite plotted with foreign unions to target BA before its members had even voted for industrial action.
Union leaders briefed their overseas counterparts as early as November, urging them to lend support to its plans to ground BA flights.
Len McCluskey, Unite's assistant general secretary, told hundreds of strikers at a rally near Heathrow yesterday that "intransigent management" could be defeated.
"Decent men and women are terrified about speaking out about this fight for their futures for fear of reprisals," he said.
There was political in-fighting yesterday over the strike.
The Prime Minister has urged the two sides to resolve the dispute, but David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader, yesterday accused Gordon Brown of failing to act because Unite is "bankrolling" the Labour Party.
Mr Cameron said the strike threatened the very future of one of the UK's "greatest companies".
Addressing supporters in Putney, south-west London, he said: "This threatens the future of one of Britain's greatest companies along with thousands of jobs.
The Tories sent a mobile advertising truck to the area around the airport carrying a poster portraying the Prime Minister in an airline uniform with Unite logos and the slogan: "Gordon's doing sweet BA – is it because he's taken £11m of Unite's cash?"
Meanwhile, BA is flying up to 100 empty long-haul flights as it tries to cope with the fallout from the strike.
The airline says it is flying planes without passengers so aircraft and pilots are in the right place when the strike comes to an end.
Elsewhere in the country, BA ran a reduced service from airports in Scotland, complemented by more than 20 chartered aircraft. Only one of five scheduled flights from Glasgow to Heathrow took off yesterday.
Other flights from Glasgow to Gatwick and the Scottish islands were unaffected.

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