Last ditch talks aimed at averting strikes by airline and airport workers over Christmas are to be held from today.
British Airways and the Unite union have accepted an invitation to attend arbitration talks at the conciliation service Acas this morning after cabin crew voted to walk out on Christmas Day and Boxing Day in a row over pay and conditions.
The action, if it goes ahead, could involve up to 4,500 staff on “mixed fleet” contracts at the airline.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “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.
“Given the huge profits BA’s parent company made last year, the mixed fleet’s calls for a living wage and for equal treatment at work and in their pay packets must be heard.”
A BA spokesman said the airline was pleased Unite had agreed to meet, adding: “We remain focused on resolving this as quickly as possible for our customers.”
Acas is to also hold discussions on Tuesday with Unite and Swissport in an effort to resolve an airport baggage handlers’ dispute which could affect services at 18 airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester.
A Swissport spokesman said it had offered to enter into a binding arbitration process with Acas and Unite in return for the strike being called off.
More than 1,500 check-in staff, baggage handlers and cargo crew have threatened to walk out for 48 hours from December 23
Unite national officer for civil air transport Oliver Richardson said: “We appreciate that this is a very busy time of year at the UK’s airports and that’s why we are calling for the company to engage in constructive talks under the auspices of Acas to resolve this dispute. Unite’s door is open 24/7 for such talks.”
Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic said it expects flights to remain unaffected by action by a “removal of goodwill” by members of the Professional Pilots Union in a dispute over union recognition.
PPU members have voted to work “strictly to contract” from December 23.
Virgin Atlantic said in a statement: “We value our pilots enormously and we are disappointed with the result of the ballot to take action short of a strike, which essentially means ‘work to rule’.
“We have been clear with the PPU leadership team that this action is unnecessary and we remain prepared to recognise the PPU once we have agreed the terms for voluntary recognition.
“We expect our flying programme to remain unaffected during this period and want to reassure our customers that all flights are operating as normal.”
Referring to the threatened Swissport action, BA said: “We use Swissport at a small number of UK airports and are currently discussing their contingency plans with them.
“We will do everything we can to minimise disruption to our customers.
“Our operations at London Heathrow, London Gatwick and London City will remain unaffected.”
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