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Union recommends BA cabin crew back peace deal

The Unite union and British Airways said they had struck a peace deal which should bring to an end an 18-month pay dispute that had cost the airline more than £150 million ($247m).

The union is recommending its members accept proposals for a two-year deal which would see cabin crew rewarded with a four per cent pay rise this year and a 3.5 per cent increase in 2012.

BA had initially put a two-year freeze on cabin crew pay in place from 2010.

The proposals were met with near unanimous approval through a show of hands at a union meeting on Thursday. The deal will now need to be rubber-stamped via a formal ballot over the next month.

"You demonstrated the type of solidarity which is astounding and should be proud of yourselves," Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey told around 2,000 union members gathered at the meeting near Heathrow Airport.

McCluskey said BA had also given way on issues relating to perks for cabin crew who can fly anywhere in the world for 10 per cent of the normal ticket price. 

BA's former chief executive Willie Walsh, who moved on to head the airline's merger with Spanish carrier Iberia, had stripped the travel perks from staff who had gone on strike and vowed never to reinstate them.

The issue had become a sticking point in negotiations but the appointment of Keith Williams as Walsh's successor effectively marked a turning point in the talks.

"Willie Walsh is no longer here but we had an opportunity when Keith Williams was appointed," McCluskey said to a round of applause from members.

McCluskey said BA had also agreed that staff who have had disciplinary action taken against them since the strikes began will have their cases reviewed.

"I think most BA crew will be happy with what the union has achieved, especially on pay and travel, and will vote to back it," said one BA cabin crew member, who gave her first name as Claire but declined to give a surname.

"It's been a long, hard road but we are optimistic we will be more valued and respected under new BA management," she added. British Airways said it was pleased the threat of further strikes had been lifted and vowed to put the dispute behind it.

"Our agreement with Unite involves acknowledgement by the union that the cost-saving structural changes we have made in cabin crew operations are permanent," the airline said.

"We have also agreed changes that will modernise our crew industrial relations and help ensure that this kind of dispute cannot occur again," it added.  The dispute started in November 2009 when BA, now part of the IAG group, cut the number of crew on some long-haul flights to 14 from 15 and introduced the pay freeze.

The row then broadened into a fight over issues related to last year's strikes. BA cabin crew staged 22 days of strikes last year.

Shares in IAG were up 0.6 per cent to 247.9 pence at 1220 GMT, compared with a 1.1 per cent fall in the FTSE 100. 

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