By Claire West

A new ballot of cabin crew at British Airways will shortly get underway, the crew's union Unite has informed the airline. This will be the fourth ballot of the same workforce at the airline in a two year period.

The new ballot follows moves last month by the airline to derail the vote conducted in December 2010 by Electoral Reform Services, which saw 78 per cent of Unite's crew members vote in favour of strike action by three to one.

Unite claims that systemic anti-union activity, the undermining of negotiated agreements and the vindictive removal of staff travel concessions by the company, is preventing headway in negotiations. Since 2010 18 members of Unite have been sacked and another 70 suspended, including a third of the local union leadership, as the airline targets trade union members.

In a letter sent to all the union's members at BA, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey writes:

"If BA's management believes that it can secure industrial harmony by these methods it is living in a fools’ paradise. Only negotiation, not litigation or intimidation, can start to heal the wounds caused by this dispute.

"However, given the on-going failure of British Airways management to take its employment relations seriously and start negotiating, we have today given the company formal notice of this fresh ballot.

"We have made every effort in prolonged negotiations to resolve this dispute. Throughout we have been guided by our representatives. If we could achieve a settlement then peace would at long last be at hand.

"BA management needs to understand that it will never break the spirit of cabin crew, and that customer uncertainty and confusion will continue until it starts listening to its staff."

The ballot will open on Tuesday, March 1st and close on Monday, March 28th, 2011.