A three-day strike by British Airways cabin crew will go ahead from Saturday after talks with management collapsed, Britain's Unite union said Friday.

The strike, which is likely to disrupt travel plans for thousands, presents a major headache for the ruling Labor party weeks before a general election because Unite is its biggest single financial backer.

The strike that is planned for midnight tonight will go ahead as will the other strike we have announced, Tony Woodley, Unite union joint general secretary, told reporters.

The cabin crew are due to strike again from March 27 to March 30, just as the Easter holiday travel season begins.

Woodley say hawks within BA who wanted confrontation with the union had won the day, including the company's chief executive Willie Walsh.

I think it is a classic case of Mr Walsh unfortunately being one of the hawks who is looking for a war with our members as opposed to a negotiated settlement, he said.

The airline wants to save 62.5 million pounds ($95 million) to help cope with a fall in demand, volatile fuel prices and increased competition from low-cost carriers.

In full-page newspaper advertisements Friday, Walsh said a significant number of cabin crew would work during the strike and the majority of BA staff did not support the action.

The union had said cabin crew will call off the strike if the airline reinstates an offer which was withdrawn last week.


The strike will embarrass Prime Minister Gordon Brown's ruling center-left Labor Party, trailing in the opinion polls.

Unite is Labour's largest financial backer and the party's strong union ties go back to its foundation in 1900. Unite's political director is Charlie Whelan, Brown's former spokesman.

Opposition Conservative leader David Cameron has accused Brown of failing to stand up to the union and compared the situation to the 1970s, which saw periods of industrial unrest under Labor.

When the crunch comes, he can only act in the union interest, not in the national interest, Cameron said this week.

BA hopes to fly at least 60 percent of customers booked for the March 20-22 period after it trained staff to provide cover.

(Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan and Keith Weir; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

($1=.6580 Pound)