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Airline strikers seek global support

Unite, which represents British Airways’ cabin crews, is talking with unions in the United States, Germany, and Spain. Unite, which represents British Airways’ cabin crews, is talking with unions in the United States, Germany, and Spain. (Dan Kitwood/ Getty Images)
Associated Press / March 18, 2010

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LONDON — The union representing British Airways’ cabin crews is gathering international support for a walkout due to begin this weekend, threatening to severely disrupt what remains of the airline’s already depleted flight schedule.

Ignoring a plea from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to return to the negotiating table with British Airways management, Unite yesterday moved instead to raise the stakes for the cash-strapped airline by holding talks with unions representing ground crews in the United States, Germany, and Spain.

Coordinated international action by ground staff and service workers would cripple British Airways’ plans to operate enough flights for more than 60 percent of its booked passengers.

“If a solution to this strike isn’t found — and we, Unite, and all our colleagues worldwide are actively seeking a settlement — then our member unions will continue to mobilize to support the strikers,’’ said Gabriel Mocho, a spokesman for the London-based International Transport Workers’ Federation.

Germany’s ver.di service workers union said it was ready to help Unite in the strike, while the International Brotherhood of Teamsters also expressed solidarity.

British Airways suggested yesterday it was winning some support of its own, strengthening its back-up flight plans after more cabin crews said they planned to work as normal.

The British Association of Airline Pilots, which has resolved its own pay dispute with BA, has said it will remain neutral in the dispute.