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Second BA strike begins

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 27 March 2010

There has been more disruption to flights today as the second wave of British Airways strike began, although the airline has said that 75% of its passengers are unaffected. Andrew Thomas reports. 

BA strikers and plane - Reuters

British Airways cabin crew set up picket lines outside airports today for the second weekend in a row as the latest industrial action began.

Chief executive Willie Walsh declined to give interviews to the media, but was seen milling about amongst passengers at Heathrow.

When one passenger asked how the airline would cope with the next few days, Walsh said: "It's going to be busy but I am hopeful that everything will go to plan. It's going really well today - and I'm glad you were able to get away on your holiday as well."

However, the airline and the union Unite continue to disagree about how badly the strike is affecting BA - not least in how many of its staff are on strike.

While Unite's assistant general secretary Len McCluskey said that members continue to back the strike, Channel 4 News revealed tonight how staff who strike for just one day could face losing almost a fortnight's pay.

For example, a crew member flying to Sydney would spend 13 hours flying to Singapore, then have 48 hours of paid rest there, before a nine hour onward flight to Australia. So far, that's already almost three days.

Then, in Sydney, they have 33 hours on the ground before flying back - another nine hours to Singapore. This is then followed by 48 hours of rest in Singapore, before 13 hours home to London. Up to just over seven days.

In London, crew are then entitled to 120 hours - five paid rest days - on their return, meaning the whole trip is rostered as 12 days. If they miss the initial flight while striking, they lose out on the whole 12 days of work.

This may explain - along with various other reasons, including staff fears that they may lose perks if they strike - why the airline's contingency operation is running so well.

Mr McCluskey said: "It's not a question of getting cold feet, it's a question of the threats and intimidation that they are being subjected to...but our information is that our members are remaining solid."

BA said it will fly more than 75% of its customers booked to travel during the four days of strike action, and expects to deal with more than 180,000 of the 240,000 people who were planning to travel from 27-30 March.

It said that all flights to and from London City and London Gatwick airport would be operating normally, as would all flights operated by its subsidiary, franchise, alliance and codeshare partners.

At Heathrow, BA said it would operate 70% of its long-haul programme, and 55% of its short-haul programme.

BA also continues to argue with Unite about how much the strike is costing.

It said its "current best estimate" of the cost of the first round of strikes last weekend was around £7 million a day, in contrast to Unite which claims the strikes will leave BA with a £100m bill.

In a statement, Mr Walsh said: "The vast majority of BA staff, including thousands of cabin crew, are pulling together to serve our customers and keep our flag flying.

"At the same time, I feel really sorry for those customers whose plans have been ruined by the Unite union's completely unjustified action. Despite the union's promises, this strike has affected the Easter holiday plans of thousands of hard-working people."

 

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