British Airways cabin crew have voted to strike for the fourth time in two years, raising fears of travel misery during Easter and next month’s royal wedding.
Unite, the union representing BA flight attendants, did not name any strike dates after another substantial vote in favour of walkouts, in what has turned into one of the UK’s most protracted industrial disputes.
And there were notes of conciliation in statements issued by both BA and Len McCluskey, Unite general-secretary, after the vote, with both sides saying talks between them were continuing.
Experienced observers of the long-running row have often seen signs of a resolution come to nothing, however.
The union has 28 days from Monday’s ballot to launch a strike and has to give seven days notice of any action, meaning it could potentially order walkouts during Easter and the April 29 royal wedding.
There is no evidence crew wish to make such a move, having suffered harsh criticism for threatening to walk out for 12 days over the Christmas holidays in December 2009 in their first strike vote in the dispute.
Although Mr McCluskey said: “This vote shows that cabin crew remain determined to win justice.”
Monday’s vote follows 22 days of strikes last spring, which cost BA more than £150m, in what was initially a dispute over BA’s move to cut crew numbers.
It has since deepened into a fight over issues ranging from the airline’s failure to fully reinstate staff travel concessions stripped from striking crew to disciplinary measures against some staff.
The latest vote saw ballot papers sent to 9,800 of BA’s 13,500 cabin crew, of which just under 7,000 were returned.
Of those 7,000, 83 per cent voted in favour of strike action, a similar proportion to past votes.
However, the number of people being balloted has steadily declined, from about 12,780 in the first ballot in December 2009, to this month’s 9,800. Some staff have taken redundancies and have been replaced by new recruits who have not joined the union, while others have left the union.