Striking union calls on BA board to rein in 'macho management'

The chairman and board members of British Airways were last night urged to "use their influence" in an attempt to resolve the cabin crew dispute, which descended into a bitter war of words after a weekend of strike action.

Trade union Unite and the airline clashed over the impact of the first two days of a three-day walkout, giving wildly different statements about the numbers supporting the action.

Chancellor Alistair Darling said the strike was "totally unnecessary" and continued the government line that the two sides needed to resume talks. Joint leader of Unite Tony Woodley attacked the "macho" management style of chief executive Willie Walsh and said it was time for the airline's chairman, Martin Broughton, and "sensible" directors to intervene.

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He said that in spite of "propaganda" from BA about the number of staff working during the weekend's strike, he was certain that the vast majority of Unite members were taking industrial action.

"Contrary to the spin from the company about this strike collapsing, only nine cabin crew have broken ranks and 80 have gone sick.

"I am now appealing to the BA chairman and sensible members of the board to use their influence, put passengers first, and return to the negotiating table for the good of everyone.

"It is quite obvious this strike is in no-one's interest. We need a negotiated settlement."

Mr Woodley wrote an open letter to cabin crew congratulating them on their "magnificent" support for the strike, which is due to continue today, followed by a four-day walkout from next Saturday. "You have stood up and stood strong for your rights, your dignity and your pride in the face of a bullying management and a malicious Tory media," he wrote.

Mr Woodley said BA had made a "take-it-or-leave-it offer" which was worse than one withdrawn during previous talks Unite said BA claims about the numbers reporting for work were a "distortion" because they included those flying back to Britain from trips which took them out of the country before the strike started.

The union claimed many planes leaving Heathrow were "ghost flights", with no or only a handful of passengers on board and only minimum crew. BA said it had reinstated a number of cancelled flights over the weekend after maintaining that more crew than expected had turned up for work.

BA claimed 1,157 cabin crew ignored the first day of the three-day stoppage yesterday and reported for duty – equivalent to 97 per cent of Gatwick crew and 52.5 per cent of Heathrow crew.

In a statement the airline said: "Our revised schedule of departures at Heathrow and Gatwick is going as planned and many aircraft are now departing full. We continue to operate a full Boeing 777 long-haul programme from the UK to more than 30 destinations around the world and are adding in several extra Boeing 747 flights, due to the numbers of crew reporting for work."

Twelve scheduled short-haul flights to and from Manchester airport were cancelled by BA yesterday.

Unite last night published a so-called "dossier of disgrace", accusing BA of bullying and harassment of union members and officials, and claiming that 38 staff had been suspended or disciplined.