British Airways and the union representing its cabin crew have struck a deal that should end a protracted labor battle that has seen numerous work stoppages, if employees ratify the accord.
The deal emerged after several rounds of talks and mediation efforts failed in recent years and comes days before a new deadline for the union to set strike dates was about to be reached.
The balloting of more than 10,000 members is to take one month, with the union leadership recommending approval by members.
Willie Walsh, CEO of BA parent International Airlines Group, says one of the aspects of the deal is to “modernize our crew industrial relations and help ensure that this kind of dispute cannot occur again.”
Both sides extracted some compromises from the other, although the airline appears to have won out on the aggregate. Walsh says “our agreement with Unite involves acknowledgement by the union that the cost-saving structural changes we have made in cabin crew operations are permanent.” Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey acknowledges as much, saying the deal “recognizes the rights and dignity of the cabin crew as well as the commercial requirements for the company.”
The union has won its battle to have travel concessions restored after the airline removed them in response to previous strike action.
The dispute had seen several rounds of strikes over 22 days, with a bill to the airline in excess of £100 million ($163.9 million). BA challenged several of the planned strike actions and prevailed in court but at the cost of increasing tensions with the union.
Helping reach an agreement was the move by Walsh to IAG (the company combining BA and Iberia), with Keith Williams taking over as head of BA.