Over 80 British Airways UK based cabin crew have been suspended and 13 sacked because of incidents related to an ongoing bitter dispute which Julian Bray, Independent Aviation Expert suggests will erupt into more strikes in the next few months, possibly disrupting the Christmas and Winter Sun/Skiing Holiday periods.
A Unite union spokesman commented: ''The continuing rise in the number of unjustified suspensions and dismissals is seriously complicating attempts to bring this dispute to an end.''
BA countered suggesting the vast majority of suspended staff were now back at work, although over 13 have had their employment terminated for ''serious cases of misconduct'', but the sackings are still subject to appeal. Reports suggest that most of the suspensions relate to allegations from other employees of bullying and intimidation. "It would be a dereliction of our duty of care as an employer to ignore these. Investigations into any allegations are conducted subject to the company's disciplinary procedures, which have been in place for many years, are considered fair, open and transparent. The process is full agreed with all our trade unions, including Unite,'' said a BA spokesman.
Talks between the union and BA managers are expected to be held next week, but Unite officials have warned that a fresh ballot for strikes could be held if there is no progress soon. Unite claimed that BA last week rejected a compromise offer aimed at resolving the row over the removal of travel concessions for cabin crew who have been on strike.
Tony Woodley, joint leader of Unite, in a widely leaked email to union members: ''The union has made what we regard as helpful proposals for both parties to go to conciliation on the outstanding issues, and has made substantive proposals regarding the return of full travel concessions within a time-limited period and the involvement of Acas in disciplinary procedures. ''The company advised that all these proposals had been turned down. The possibility of balloting you once more on industrial action, after discussion with your representatives, remains an option very much on the table.''
A Unite spokesman said that if BA continued to ''delay'' reaching a settlement, a strike ballot was ''inevitable''.
Cabin crew have taken part in some 22 days of strike action since March, costing BA more than £150 million, but the strike pattern with a few operational days between industrial action has resulted in aircraft being out of position and working crews unable to work.
The dispute was originally over BA's plans to dramatically reduce payroll and 'perks' costs by cutting the number of cabin crew, but a deal is now being held up because of the removal of travel concessions and union opposition to BA's disciplinary action against striking staff.
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