Ash ban could delay BA strike but losses mount

The latest ash flights ban could result in a temporary reprieve for BA as it faces a fresh wave of cabin crew strikes next week.

Trade union Unite has suggested the start of five days of industrial action could be suspended if flights are banned next week. The threat from the ash is expected to move south and could disrupt services from both Gatwick and Heathrow.

The threat from the ash cloud is expected to last for two or three days next week after fresh eruptions in Iceland and the prevailing wind bringing the ash into UK airspace.

Unite general secretary Tony Woodley said it would be stupid to ground aircraft that are going nowhere anyway.

Meanwhile, a three pronged attempt to resolve the BA dispute is due to start tomorrow with fresh talks at Acas, intervention from the new UK coalition government and a court challenge.

New transport secretary Philip Hammond is due to meet with both sides in the dispute, and BA will claim in the High Court that the strike is illegal due to a technicality in how the result of the ballot was communicated to union members.

Last week Unite announced 20 days of strikes in a 23 day period starting on Tuesday with the first of a series of five day walk outs.

BA is poised to announce record losses this week estimated at £600 million for the year to March. Flight bans due to the Icelandic ash cloud is estimated to cost it £20 million a day and the strike in March £45 million.

The carrier’s dreadful financial position has raised fears over its ability to survive the current crises it is facing and prompted criticism of Unite’s position in the weekend papers.

In the Sunday Times Hammond likened the action being taken to that of London dockers in the 1960s.

He was quoted as saying: “Either you work together with the employer to work on in a viable business, or you do what the London dockers did in the 1960s and refuse to countenance any change. How many London dockers are there now?” 

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