Fresh strikes loom as BA cabin crew reject latest offer

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British Airways cabin crew have rejected the airline's latest offer to end their long-running dispute, their union said Tuesday, raising the prospect of fresh strikes.

Members of the Unite union, Britain's biggest trade union, voted by 3,419 to 1,686 against the offer, dashing hopes of an end to the bitter row over cost-cutting and travel perks for staff.

Unite had postponed further strike action last month to allow members to vote on what BA said was its "final" offer.

The airline's offer had included a 2.9 percent pay rise next year and a three percent pay increase the following year.

BA had also promised to partially reinstate travel concessions to some staff members.

The loss-making airline has already been hit by 22 days of strikes this year by cabin crew, costing the company more than 150 million pounds (177 million euros, 228 million dollars), according to Unite.

A Unite spokesman said: "The union will now meet with cabin crew representatives this afternoon to consider the next steps."

BA's share price sank 1.63 percent to 198.6 pence on the London stock market after the news.

If Unite decides to press on with industrial action, the first strike could hit BA in September.

The spat between the airline and Unite began last year and initially centered on a pay dispute.

Yet having reached a broad agreement on pay, the row then switched to the heavily discounted flights available to off-duty cabin crew -- key perks which have been taken away from striking workers.

Ahead of Tuesday's no vote, Unite had opted to stay neutral regarding BA's latest offer and did not make any recommendations to its members.

BA, which has been hammered by the global economic downturn, plans to merge with Spanish rival Iberia in a bid to return to profitability.

Last week, Europe's competition watchdog cleared the way for the tie-up, which would create one of the world's biggest airlines.

In May, BA announced a record annual pre-tax loss of 531 million pounds (626 million euros, 805 million dollars).

© 2010 AFP

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