December 14, 2016 / 3:02 PM / in 7 months

British Airways cabin crew vote to strike in pay dispute

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British Airways aircraft taxi at Heathrow Airport near London, Britain October 11, 2016.Stefan Wermuth/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Thousands of cabin crew working for British Airways have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in a pay dispute, the Unite union said on Wednesday.

More than 2,500 Unite members who crew long- and short-haul routes to dozens of destinations could walk out after Dec. 21, it said in a statement.

Those taking part in the ballot were members of IAG-owned BA's "Mixed Fleet," Unite said, which all BA's new cabin crew employees since 2010 have joined.

They represent about 15 percent of the airline's stewards.

Seventy-nine percent of the crew that took part in the ballot voted for strike action on a turnout of 60 percent.

British Airways logos are seen on tailfins at Heathrow Airport in west London, Britain May 12, 2011.Toby Melville/Files

"Mixed fleet crew earn just over the minimum wage and below the national average," said Unite regional officer Matt Smith.

"Our members have overwhelmingly voted for strike action because British Airways' pay rates are indefensible and the crew are at breaking point."

BA responded in a statement: "We are extremely disappointed that the union is creating uncertainty for our customers. We remain focussed on resolving this issue as quickly as possible without any disruption to customers."

Between 2009 and 2011, BA suffered two years of bitter industrial action as it tried to cut 1,700 cabin crew jobs and freeze pay.

Willie Walsh, then BA CEO but now CEO of parent company IAG (ICAG.L), held his ground, angering unions by spending millions of pounds on hiring staff to cover for striking crew.

Reporting by Stephen Addison, editing by David Evans

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