Unite the union issued ballot papers for potential industrial action to its 12,000-strong cabin crew membership within British Airways this week.
The ballot papers were sent on the same day BA began to impose far-reaching changes to cabin crew working practices, changes which Unite believes are not only unworkable but also contractual - and so must be negotiated, not imposed.
Unite is concerned the changes will place crew under additional stress during flights, which will have a negative impact on both passenger service and health and safety.
Such are Unite's concerns about the changes that it has lodged a collective letter of objection with BA on behalf of its cabin crew members, and asked a firm of leading employment solicitors to establish an e-helpline to allow crew to provide feedback on the impact on working practices and customer service.
Speaking as the ballot papers were sent out, Brian Boyd, Unite national officer for aviation, said: "The way to deliver change is through negotiation, not imposition. Of course the cabin crew are angry; they care passionately about this business but feel they are not being listened to on serious matters of service delivery. This business is all about its customers and the crew do not want them to suffer as a result of these changes.
"We ask British Airways to signal that it is willing to abandon its plans to impose change and work with us on a way forward, one which delivers for passengers, shareholders and the workforce. Then we could begin to tackle the roots of this damaging dispute and find a way forward."
Steve Turner, national officer for aviation, added: "We have lodged a formal letter with BA on behalf of our 12,000-plus cabin crew members who strongly oppose the company's plans to force through cuts. Crews being forced to work under protest retain their legal rights to pursue a reversal of the imposition, as well as significant compensation, and Unite continues to fight their case in the High Court. In the meantime, our ballot for industrial action continues and will close as planned on December 14th."
The High Court hearing for Unite's claim has been scheduled for 1st February 2010.