British Airways staff moved one step closer to striking during the Christmas period as trade union Unite today pledged to ballot its 14,000 BA cabin crew members over taking industrial action.

Staff have been furious following plans announced by the airline to cut 1,700 full-time cabin crew positions at Heathrow, so reducing the number of attendants on long-haul flights from 15 to 14. It also imposed a two-year pay freeze and changes in working practices.

Now Unite joint general-secretary Derek Simpson has pledged to ballot union members over possible strike action following the “unacceptable” changes.

He added: “Unite is going to ballot its British Airways cabin crew members on industrial action.

“BA management’s determination to impose unacceptable contractual changes on cabin crew leaves us no alternative.

“We will strongly support our members if they vote for industrial action, while of course remaining ready to negotiate with the company. Negotiation, not imposition, is the only proper way to conduct industrial relations.”