British Airways cabin crew begins strike

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

A British Airways Airbus A320-100
Image: Juergen Lehle (

Cabin crew workers at British Airways have begun a three-day strike, affecting over 60,000 people, after last-minute talks between BA and the union, Unite, collapsed.

The strike will extend for three days, after beginning at midnight in London. After the first strike, the union plans another four days of industrial action, beginning on March 27th. According to BA, around 65% of the airline's passengers will be able to reach their destinations, despite 1,100 of the normal 1,950 flights being canceled. The effect of the strike varied between airports; while all flights were operating from London City Airport, only 60% of long-haul and 30% of short-haul flights were expected to operate from London Heathrow Airport. At London Gatwick Airport, all long-haul flights and around half of short-haul flights were still operating.

The strike began after last-minute negotiations between BA and Unite collapsed. BA and Unite have been at odds for some time; in November 2009, BA announced plans to reduce the number of crew on many flights and institute a two-year pay freeze from 2010. While Unite says it recognizes the need for costs to be cut, it also claimed it was not consulted on the means to do so.

The strike also has political implications in the United Kingdom, as Unite is one of the largest backers for Prime Minister Gordon Browns' Labour Party. The opposition Conservative Party have called on the Labour Party to sever financial ties with Unite during the length of the dispute, saying that "Labour's dependence on funding from Unite is compromising their ability to stand up to the unions and stand up for the interests of passengers."