The war of words between BA and Unite union ramped up again yesterday. First, Unite announced it intends to re-ballot its BA cabin crew members over industrial action. The union said "the move follows the failure to secure an agreement on the crucial issues of imposed changes to employee workload and working conditions."
Of course, BA cabin crew have already voted in favour of industrial action once before during this dispute. But the ballot was ruled unlawful by the High Court in December and the strike abandoned. The parties headed back to the negotiating table only two weeks ago and Unite spokesman Len McCluskey sounded almost apologetic announcing the new ballot:
"We've been engaged in intensive discussions with BA management over the last few days, but unfortunately we've not been able to secure an agreement yet.
"We therefore have to honour our commitment to give our members the voice they were denied by the courts before Christmas, and hold a fresh ballot. In notifying the company of this, I've reiterated that we want talks to continue, and that the union is prepared to meet any place, any time, to try and reach an agreement which addresses the real concerns of BA's skilled, loyal and professional employees while giving the company the savings it needs to stay airborne."
The tone of Unite's rhetoric changed markedly later in the day, however, after it learned of BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh's written appeal to ground staff to "volunteer" to crew aircraft should a strike go ahead.
Unite general secretary Tony Woodley said it was "a provocative attempt by BA to disrupt negotiations." He added: "It's inconceivable that BA should even be thinking of running its airline - the national carrier - with scab labour who have had only minimal safety and other training. This shows contempt for the professionalism of cabin crew."
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