British Airways To Talk With Union As Christmas Day Strike Looms

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Ted Goodman Contributor
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British Airways management will meet with representatives from Unite, the union that represents cabin crew members, on Monday in an effort to avoid a Christmas strike.

“We can confirm that BA and Unite have accepted our invitation to attend conciliation talks in respect of the cabin crew dispute tomorrow morning,” a spokesman for an independent arbitrator announced. The talks come after the union announced plans to strike on Christmas Day.

The dispute involves 4,500 “mixed fleet” cabin crew who have joined the airline since 2010. The union asserts that the newer employees are on lower wages than other staff and hope to negotiate higher wages.

“I am delighted that British Airways has heeded our calls for talks. It is only by getting round the table that we can find a solution to my members’ concerns,” the general secretary of the union told The Guardian.

The potential strike by British Airways cabin crew would deepen labor unrest over the holiday season. British post office managers, as well as train drivers and airport ground crew have been striking over wages and working conditions.  (RELATED: Labor Unions Threaten To Derail Britain’s Christmas)

Virgin Atlantic pilots have also voted to take industrial action, but short of a strike, in a dispute over union recognition. Europe’s legacy carriers are looking to streamline costs in order to compete with low cost, budget alternatives like Ryan Air. (RELATED: Lufthansa Offers Pilots New Contract Amid Costly Strike)

“We are appalled that Unite proposes to disrupt customers’ travel plans on such special days when so many families are trying to gather together or set off on well-deserved holidays,” British Airways said in a statement. ‘This calculated and heartless action is completely unnecessary and we are determined that it will fail,” the airline added.

The potential cabin crew strike comes after after more than 1,500 check-in staff, baggage handlers and cargo crew, represented by Unite, at 18 airports announced their own 48-hour strike that will take place just before Christmas on Dec. 23 and 24. Workers at Swissport, the world’s largest ground and cargo handler, voted to go on strike in their own dispute over wages.

The flagship carrier for the United Kingdom publicly asserted that the strike was “unnecessary” and assured the flying public that they will have contingency plans in place if the strike occurs.

“We will plan to ensure that all our customers travel to their destinations so that their Christmas arrangements are not ruined,” the airline promised.

Meanwhile, France is dealing with its own union-led war on Christmas. The iconic Eiffel Tower was forced to close for five days after union workers walked out in a dispute over an upcoming paint job. (RELATED: Union Strike Forces Eiffel Tower To Close)

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