* Ballot to start Dec. 21, ends Jan. 21 - Unite
* Unite union “open to talks” - joint general secretary
* Strike won’t affect Gatwick, London City services - BA
(Adds BA comment)
LONDON, Dec 14 (Reuters) - The trade union representing cabin crew at British Airways BAY.L said it would ballot members next week over fresh strike action in a dispute that has so far cost the airline 150 million pounds ($238 million).
The ballot will begin on Dec. 21 and will end on Jan. 21, Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union, said on Tuesday.
The dispute, which began last year over proposed cuts to pay and staffing levels, now centres on five issues including the removal of travel concessions from crew members who took part in earlier strikes.
“Unite is still open to talks, but BA must appreciate the strength of feeling across the airline about how badly they’ve handled this dispute,” Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley said in a statement.
“BA must get serious and work with us to settle the issues before us.”
BA said it had drawn up contingency plans that would allow it to operate a “substantial proportion” of its short-haul flights, and all of its long-haul flights, at Heathrow airport in the event of another strike.
Services at Gatwick and London City would be unaffected.
“Industrial action would be a grossly disproportionate response to the issues that Unite continues to press,” the airline said in a statement.
Unite’s general secretary elect, Len McCluskey, said last month that any ballot on fresh industrial action was likely to get a “substantial” yes vote. [ID:nLDE6AN1PA]
BA shares closed unchanged at 278 pence.
Reporting by Myles Neligan