British Airways Cabin Crew Ask Pilots to Stop Undermining Strike

Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) -- British Airways Plc’s cabin-crew union has asked pilots to stop undermining a two-year campaign over pay and staffing levels by volunteering as emergency flight attendants during strike action, according to the cockpit union.

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey has written to Jim McAuslan, his counterpart at the British Airline Pilots’ Association, to appeal for support, McAuslan said today in an interview in London. Some union officials have “lost the plot” over the dispute and Balpa plans to stay neutral, he said.

“We will not be encouraging our members to support the strike action, neither will we be chastising them for doing so or encouraging anyone to do the work of other staff,” he said, adding that were pilots to be consulted there would be “an overwhelming vote against supporting the cabin crew.”

A return to industrial action was backed by more than 78 percent of 7,330 flight attendants who voted in a month-long poll, Unite said Jan. 21. While the union wants talks rather than an immediate strike, British Airways says it’s not prepared to modify existing proposals and will use rented planes and stand-in staff from across the company to beat any walkout.

Contingency plans developed by Willie Walsh, the BA chief who heads International Consolidated Airlines Group SA following the carrier’s merger with Iberia Lineas Aereas de Espana SA, are likely to hold up well, with support from most employee groups, McAuslan said. British Airways succeeded in keeping flights operating during five strikes spanning 22 days last year.

Rift Concern

McAuslan said he’s concerned that a rift is developing between flight attendant and pilots as Unite’s BASSA division, which represents cabin crew, holds out for a better deal from the airline after blocking a settlement in November.

“Unite is the prisoner of a branch that’s lost the plot a bit and cabin crew who have been badly led are frustrated,” he said. “But at the end of all of this flight and cabin crew need to work together. This is a safety critical industry.”

Unite has no comment on Balpa’s remarks, spokeswoman Pauline Doyle said by telephone. The union’s leadership aims to meet with cabin-crew representatives later this week to determine the next course of action, she said.

Pilots will begin negotiating a new pay deal of their own in the spring, McAuslan said at the briefing.

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