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British Airways Seeks Volunteers in Case of Strike

January 26, 2010 By: Jena Tesse Fox

British Airways is seeking volunteers ready to undergo a basic training course which would enable a handful of some of its 650 daily flights to operate in the event that the Unite worker’s union does vote to strike later this year. But, according to Unite, only 216 volunteers have offered to replace British Airways cabin crew in the event of industrial action.

The trade union claims that a plan to retrain employees as air stewards during industrial action would replace less than 2 percent of BA’s cabin crew. The ballot opened yesterday to vote on a walkout over staffing cuts. It closes on February 22, and the earliest possible strike date is March 1, although Unite has already ruled out an Easter walkout.

The airline, which declined to disclose how many volunteers it had found, said its contingency plans were intended to enable the airline to “operate the best flying programme possible under the circumstances”.

Those undergoing the training course, which has been approved by the Civil Aviation Authority, will be given instruction in some of the key safety areas—such as aircraft layout, first aid and how to operate the emergency exits.

BA has told staff with no flying experience they can qualify as cabin crew within three weeks, with pilots able to meet safety standards within five days.

A spokesman added: “Any temporary crew will be trained to meet all the standards and requirements of British Airways and all regulatory authorities. The safety of our customers and staff is always our over-riding priority and we would never do anything to compromise that.”

Balpa, the pilots’ union, has vowed to remain neutral during the vote, while the GMB union, which represents 7,000 BA employees, has condemned the attempt to recruit replacement cabin crew.

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