Global Airport News

Global Airport News

British Airways and the Unite union have resumed talks to try to avert a weekend strike by cabin crew that would embarrass the ruling Labour government weeks before an election.

"We're at least talking. That's the good news, but at the moment there's only talks and certainly no breakthrough and no acceptable way forward for us but I'm still hopeful and optimistic and that's why I'm going back (for more talks)," Unite joint general-secretary Tony Woodley told Sky News.

Woodley said cabin crew would call off the planned seven-day strike if management reinstated an offer which was withdrawn last week.

The dispute centres around cost-saving and specifically a reduction in the number of cabin crew staff on long-haul flights.

BA shares traded 1.25 percent higher on Thursday afternoon after the resumption of talks was confirmed.

Led by former pilot Willie Walsh, BA has taken a hard line with unions, arguing that cost cuts are essential when it faces a squeeze on business travel and competition from low-cost airlines. The timing of the stoppage is awkward for the ruling Labour government because Unite is its largest financial backer.

The opposition Conservatives, who lead in opinion polls in what is poised to be a close election, have seized on the dispute to say that Labour remains too close to its union paymasters.

Business Secretary Peter Mandelson said on Thursday that the proposed strike was unjustified and would harm the company's prospects. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also called for a resumption of talks.

BA has said it hopes to fly at least 60 percent of customers booked for the March 20-22 period after training staff from other areas of the company to fill in for cabin crew. The union has planned an initial three-day stoppage from Saturday, followed by a four-day strike from March 27.