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British Airways crew to vote over Christmas strike

More than 12,000 cabin crew members from British Airways have been issued with ballot papers as staff at the leading airline begin protests against the cost-cutting changes to working practices.

Reduced holidays, a two-year pay freeze and fewer benefits are among the changes that have sparked the move. In addition, more than 3,000 crew members have been transferred to part-time contracts, while 1,000 are to take voluntary redundancy.

The ballot for industrial action will close on December 14, the same day that the next mass meeting of cabin crew is scheduled. Should there be support for action, industrial strikes could become operational on December 21 and cause significant disruption to the festive schedule.

News of the ballot comes just days after British Airways revealed plans to merge with Spanish airline Iberia. This announcement itself prompted a response from the worker's union Unite, stating that it will not back the proposed merger unless assurances are provided that there will be no more job losses.

Steve Turner, Unite national officer for aviation, said: "We have lodged a formal letter with BA on behalf of our 12,000-plus cabin crew members who strongly oppose the company's plans to force through cuts. Crews being forced to work under protest retain their legal rights to pursue a reversal of the imposition, as well as significant compensation, and Unite continues to fight their case in the High Court. In the meantime our ballot for industrial action continues and will close as planned on December 14.

"Unite is so concerned about the impact of these cuts on both crew and paying customers, that we have instructed employment specialists to establish an independent system to monitor their impact over the coming period."

November 16, 2009