Virgin Atlantic strikes averted after deal

LONDON Mon Jan 7, 2008 7:02pm GMT

A British Airways aeroplane is seen through a heat haze in front of a Virgin Atlantic hanger at London's Heathrow airport, August 1, 2007. Virgin Atlantic cabin crew who are members of the Unite union called off plans to strike at the eleventh hour on Monday after they agreed to new pay conditions, the union and airline said. REUTERS/Stephen Hird

A British Airways aeroplane is seen through a heat haze in front of a Virgin Atlantic hanger at London's Heathrow airport, August 1, 2007. Virgin Atlantic cabin crew who are members of the Unite union called off plans to strike at the eleventh hour on Monday after they agreed to new pay conditions, the union and airline said.

Credit: Reuters/Stephen Hird

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LONDON (Reuters) - Virgin Atlantic cabin crew who are members of the Unite union called off plans to strike at the eleventh hour on Monday after they agreed to new pay conditions, the union and airline said.

The union had planned to stage two 48-hour strikes on Wednesday and next week as their dispute with the airline escalated after several months of negotiations had failed.

But after initially rejecting the company's final pay offer of a two-year deal -- 4.8 percent in the first year and a rise in line with inflation in the second year -- the union agreed to those terms, a joint statement with the airline said.

The agreement with the airline, owned by Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Singapore Airlines, means strikes set down for Wednesday and January 16 have been abandoned.

The parties said the agreement included a clause to review the conditions again in April next year.

Both parties admitted the protracted discussions had been "potentially damaging to the current relationship between the company, its cabin crew and the union".

Branson said he was pleased the strikes had been averted.

"The outcome is a triumph of common sense and means that our passengers need not worry about getting to their destinations," he said in the statement.

Brian Boyd, Unite's national officer, said: "This agreement recognises the important contribution cabin crew make to the business and I am of the firm opinion that we now have the opportunity to ensure an improved relationship with Virgin Atlantic in the future."

(Reporting by Andrew Hough; Editing by Luke Baker)

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