British Airways strike: Full support for the cabin crew
As the first week of the British Airways (BA) cabin crew strike drew to a close, I spoke to Penny White, a retired cabin crew member who now works for Bassa, the trade union branch within Unite representing the cabin crew.
Edmund Schluessel, Socialist Party Cardiff East
The mood is good on the picket lines: "There are masses and masses of people there. We are still having people calling in saying they're going on strike for the first time". BA crew are distributed all over the world, so many workers are joining the strike as soon as they return to British soil. "There are more joiners every day. People are losing hundreds of pounds I'm afraid, but people are determined they're not going to let their colleagues down."
VIDEO: Above, Neil Cafferky, London Socialist Party and editor of Air Strike, the Socialist Party blog for British Airways workers and Trade Union Activists (http://airstrikes.wordpress.com/), comments on the BA dispute on day five of the strike. Video filmed and edited by Socialist Party South West.
Continued from above...
It's not just the strikers but "Everyone who's been off sick has been told their staff travel concessions have been taken away. A few people have managed to get it back but it's people with things like diabetes, illnesses that were on record." The motivation for these tactics is that the strike is: "not going the way the management thought it was going to go".
Difficulties in connecting BA workers across the different sections within the airline has led to some problems for the union. "The pilots who aren't involved in being scab crew, some of them are supporting us. The engineers aren't particularly pro-us... everyone's in sections, each group's trying to do their own thing."
Unite's negotiators are still trying to get a deal for the strikers. "The deal that we've offered BA gives them New Fleet, which is the thing they were after. We have accepted change, we've offered as much as we can to try and help BA in its supposed time of falling revenue. It's all been turned down so [BA boss] Walsh can spend £84 million (to date) on breaking the union."
What, then, can ordinary people and activists do to show support for the BA strikers? "Everybody is welcome to join the picket lines. People are sending in donations. It's costing a lot of money for the crew to keep going.
"Donations can be sent to: Unite House, 99 New Road, Harlington, Middlesex UB3 5BQ".
"Walsh is interested not in the deal so much as the demise of the union. If the union is gone, then he will be able to do as he sees fit and who knows what that will entail down the line. He destroyed Aer Lingus, he's destroying British Airways now."
The Socialist Party calls for:
- A mobilisation of all BA workers to defend trade union rights
- A mass meeting of all BA trade union reps to discuss extending the action
- A joint trade union demonstration at Heathrow to show the national support for BA strikers
From Socialist Party strike bulletin no 7
Cabin crew have shown their determination to stand up to Willie Walsh. Hopefully a deal acceptable to crew can be reached either during or by the end of the strike period. If, however, management remain intransigent, then follow up strike dates should be announced straight away in order to keep the pressure on management.
The new conditions demanded by management should also be a warning to other workers at BA. If these changes are imposed on cabin crew it is only a matter of time before management comes calling to impose those changes on them as well.
In particular BA's demands for a renegotiation of the 1948 Redeployment Agreement and trade union facility time are a fundamental attack on the terms and conditions of all workers at the company.
The leadership of cabin crew branches should consider inviting all union reps at the company to a meeting to discuss how best to defend trade union rights from the onslaught of management. A clear statement from such a meeting calling on the company to cease its drive to break the union and get back to the negotiating table or face a 24 hour warning strike of all BA sections would send a powerful message to BA management.
The last thing Willie Walsh wants to see is this dispute spreading to other parts of the company.
See also: http://airstrikes.wordpress.com/
In The Socialist 2 June 2010:
British Airways cabin crew strike
Environment and socialism
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party LGBT
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis