British Airways and union to hold strike talks Monday

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Britain's conciliation service Acas said it would broker talks between British Airways and the Unite union on Monday aimed at halting four planned five-day strikes.

The talks will take place on the same day the airline seeks an injunction at the High Court in London to prevent the strikes going ahead, the first of which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

Chief conciliator Peter Harwood said Saturday: "There is now an opportunity for the parties to seriously reflect on the issues and the implications of not reaching an agreement.

"We will be using all of our expertise in any way we can to help the parties reach a resolution."

Unite, Britain's biggest union, is locked in an increasingly bitter standoff with BA over jobs, pay and staffing.

Its members are due to walk out from May 18-22, then from May 24-28, May 30-June 3 and June 5-9 -- the last strike ending just two days before the football World Cup starts in South Africa.

The government has warned that British airspace could be closed again from Sunday as a result of the volcanic ash drifting from Iceland -- a no-fly zone over parts of Northern Ireland was imposed in the early hours of Sunday.

Asked whether the threat to flights posed by the ash cloud would have any impact on the strike action, Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite, said: "Like many people we are assessing the situation, but at this moment there is absolutely no need to call off the strike.

"Our main focus is on making sure we have meaningful talks at Acas in the coming days."

© 2010 AFP

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