Day 2. Report from the picket line

BA staff bus empty of scab crew


Cabin crew strikes at BA continued to make headlines across the globe yesterday, as the second day of strike action was as solid as the first. Willie Walsh is whistling in the dark – he claimed that all ‘scheduled’ flights took place; this is nothing but spin and it is telling that he won’t put a number to how many scab flights were ‘scheduled’!

The picket lines were overflowing and in a buoyant mood – strikers chanted ‘Willie, Willie, Willie – Out! Out! Out!’ and ‘We love Willie; but just not Walsh’, while cars and busses honked their support as they passed. On one picket line, a member of BAs office staff brought a box of donuts down to fuel the pickets, while on another picket ambulance workers continued to refresh strikers with cuppas over the course of the day. These examples of the support that exists amongst ordinary people and other workers shows that Walsh’s propaganda will not wash.

This is despite the fact that all strikers face a gagging order – they have been told in no uncertain terms that anyone who speaks to the press to give their side of the story will face discipline and possible suspension. BA management’s paranoia grew to new levels as it emerged that the Guardian newspaper has been banned from the complementary reading material on flights due to columnist Seamus Milne’s articles in support of the strike!

Management are clearly shaken by how solid the first two days of strike action have been and it seems Walsh has gone to ground – his only media appearance since the beginning of industrial action has been in the form of a pre-recorded YouTube video. It also seems that there is a split opening up amongst management over how to deal with the strike, with Walsh becoming increasingly marginalised. Now is the time to step up the action to take advantage of this; with long haul flights coming in yesterday and today, new waves of cabin crew are joining the strike and coming out on the pickets.

It is clear that for many workers, this dispute is becoming a ‘fight to the death’, many have said that if the union is broken they would hand their cards in – BA would not be worth working for if it weren’t for the protection that a strong union can give. Unfortunately, this is exactly what Walsh and the Directors want – there were rumours on the picket line yesterday that a seven-figure bonus payment has been promised to Walsh if he can break BASSA! We can’t let this happen! Trade unionists across the country stand solidly behind the cabin crew as they see that a victory for Walsh will be a green light for other companies to attempt union-busting. A victory for cabin crew, however, would raise the sights of millions of workers and show that we don’t have to accept the attacks of the employer.

A discussion is taking place about what to do from here. Building for next weeks strike days will be the focus of most people’s minds right now. But if Walsh does not come crawling back to the table with concessions – centrally, the abandonment of the ‘new fleet’ and the immediate reinstatement of all suspended trade unionists – then cabin crew should be confident in calling further strike action. A widely publicised rally or march, if possible to Waterside, as part of further strike days could also be a big boost. The leadership of Unite could put their call for the whole of the trade union movement to mobilise behind cabin crew to practical effect by laying on busses in London and nearby counties to bring fellow trade unionists down for a march led by cabin crew. Friends, family and other trade unionists could turn out to show their solidarity and turn out to get Willie out!


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