Cabin crew members for British Airways PLC voted in favor of striking over jobs and working conditions, union leaders said Monday, in the latest action in a long-running dispute between the airline's management and workers.
The Unite union said nearly 7,500 BA cabin crew members — or 81 percent of those who voted — said yes to strike action. The union said it was not announcing any strike dates before members meet Thursday to discuss the vote result, but it had previously ruled out striking over the busy Easter holiday period.
The union, which represents some 13,000 BA cabin crew, has to give seven days' notice of any strikes to the airline, which has been training other staff, including pilots, to replace cabin crew if strikes are held.
"BA's cabin crew have made clear that the deep sense of grievance they feel about their treatment by their employer remains," said Len McCluskey, the union's assistant general secretary.
BA's management and workers are locked in a bitter dispute over pay and working conditions that resulted in a narrowly averted Christmas strike that threatened to cripple the airline last year.
Last week, the union lost a legal battle to overturn cost-cutting changes introduced by the airline. It had argued that the cuts — including a pay freeze this year, a switch to part-time work for some staff and a reduction in cabin crew numbers on long-haul flights — breached BA's contracts with staff because the airline did not properly consult with them before imposing the changes in November.
The High Court sided Friday with BA, which has long argued the changes were necessary to counter falling demand for air travel after the global financial crisis.
The airline called Monday's voting results disappointing and "completely unjustified."
"We will not allow Unite to ruin this company," BA said in a statement. "Should a strike take place, we will do everything we can to protect our customers' travel plans as far as possible."
Chief executive Willie Walsh said earlier this month that the cost-cutting drive has put the carrier on the right course, but won't save it from posting record losses in the current year.
In November, BA reported a net loss of 208 million pounds ($346 million) in the six months ending in September 2009.
The carrier has been one of the airlines hardest hit by the global recession because of its heavy running costs and reliance on increasingly unpopular premium fares.
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