Interviews from the picket lines


This first interview was taken from an enthusiastic female member of cabin crew. With an ever present smile she relates her confidence that support for the dispute is growing.

Air Strike (AS): Have you been in work in the last few days between the strike?
Female Picket 1 (FP1): No I was off work over the last weekend and I have been on a course over the last  two days. The third day (of the course) I was supposed to complete but I’m not turning up.

AS: Do you know from talking to your colleauges  who were in work what the mood was like in between the strikes?
FP1: The mood is still pretty positive, everyone is encouraged by how well it went last week. I think a lot of the fear has now turned into more determination. I think the bullying and intimidation we have been experiencing before the first set of strike did have some effect but the success of last weekend for the union was so great that I expect to see more people here this weekend supporting the crew.

AS: It has been noticeable that the tide has turned a little bit in the media, also there was  the letter those academics sent in. Why do you think the mood is turning?
FP1: Well I think basically because people are starting to see through the plan (of management). All the way along it was about cost cutting and fight for survival for British Airways when clearly they’re wasting so much money on this strike when they could be negotiating. I think the truth is people are starting to see through the plan of Willie Walsh and BA that this isn’t about cost cutting it about breaking the union and breaking our terms and conditions. It was never to do with cost cutting. SoI think the media, hopefully are starting to wake up to that fact, hopefully the general public as well.

AS: It was quite noticeable that Willie Walsh went into his bunker during the strike…
FM1: *laughs* Yes
AS: … then there was the letter and he came out of the bunker to go on the BBC. Then he announced the withdrawl of the travel discount. Do you think this is a reaction to the success of the strike action?
FP1: I think so yes. I think he’s playing that card. It’s one of his trump cards so he thinks… a lot of our crew live in Europe and different parts of the UK so they fly to work. (Some of them) are frightened of losing their concessions and (that has) scared some people into going to work but I think the more people that are here this weekend the more that will show our determination and togetherness to win this strike.

AS: There’s been no sign of movement from Walsh. It seems like you will have to be out for the full four days. What do you think it’s going to take after that to bring him to the table?
FP1: I think that hopefully the powers that be above Willie Walsh might come to their senses, the BA board, the BA chairman, might have something to say and hopefully they might be able to push him towards sanity. 

This interview was taken with a man on the picket lines in support of his partner, one of the striking cabin crew. Beside him his daughter waves a little Unite flag at passing cars. On agreeing to do the interview he remarked that at least he still had the right to speak publicly in his own name, unlike his partner. Nevertheless we have decided not to print his name in order to protect his partners identity.

AS: Can you tell me why you have come down to the picket today?
Supporter (S): I’ve just come down to show support. My partner is cabin crew for British Airways. I believe in what they are doing. I feel that a lot of the media is heavily weighed against their protest, unfairly so. Why that is I don’t know…? *passing motorist honks his horn and waves* … there’s a bit more support!

I just think they need all the support they can get. What they are doing is correct. They’re not asking for more they’re just asking to retain what they’ve got and why should we as individuals have our standard of living taken away from us for the state the nations in financially and economically. It’s not our doing, it’s big business that has caused this let the big businesses pay rather than the individual.

AS: What’s been the reaction to the strike in your own workplace? Has it been discussed much?
S: Not an awful lot really. I think the reporting and general coverage of this has been weighted very heavily in big businesses favour. Therefore the general public have not got a true picture of exactly what’s happening and what it’s all about. In the main we’re living in a society where the majority of the public don’t care unless it actually effects them, they’re not interested. But one thing that is amazing is how the press can always find these people who are on this dream trip. That’s not (the usual) BA customer. If they are only flying once every four years they’re not exactly keeping BA afloat. They never look for the businessman who fly’s BA maybe four, five times a month. Maybe he’d have a different slant on it and wouldn’t be quite in tune with what they want to portray?

AS: We’ve had a lot of reports of bullying and intimidation by management. As someone whose partner has been effected by this, what impression has that made on your family and your perceptions of this dispute?
S: Well it’s very scary. Someone’s threatened with the sack for taking part in a legitimate industrial dispute. My knowledge is that’s illegal but it’s still frightening. At the end of the day my partner goes to work to maintain her standard of living. If she looses her job because she’s taken part in something that’s totally legal that’s appalling. They have been bullied and intimidated on a constant basis, verbally, by letter and it’s just appalling.

Our final interview is with a female picket who is adamant Walsh’s latest bully boy tactics will not succeed.

AS: Round two of the titanic battle between BA and cabin crew. How are you feeling?
Female Picket 2 (FP2): Wonderful! The amount of solidarity and the feed back we’ve got from round one has been absolutely brilliant.

AS: It’s quite noticeable how the confidence of cabin crew has grown as the strike has progressed…
Female Picket 2 (FP): Yes, absolutely. The cabin crew are at a stage where they realise that they just will not be cowed into giving up, despite the fact that everyone who was on strike in round one have now lost their travel concessions. In spite of that, regardless, cabin crew will not give in to a corporate bully. Even though losing their staff travel has a massive impact on people’s lives, particularly some of my colleagues who commute from Europe because BA made a concerted effort to recruit I the 90’s in an effort to make it a more European airline, less British. They don’t know how they are going to get to work. So it has a massive impact although we are looking at the legalities. It may well turn out to be illegal because they have been on strike they are suffering a detriment. So it may well be shown to be illegal. But in the meantime people don’t know how they will get to work when they do in fact return to work. So it’s had a big impact in that way but psychologically they are not cowed by it, as you can see by the massive amount of support we still have.

AS: It does seem as if it was a sign of desperation on Walsh’s part.
FP2: Absolutely, just looking at him he looks more and more like a desperate man!

AS: There’s been no sign of movement from the BA management. Do you think there will be further rounds of strikes and how do you think the strike can be developed?
FP2: I think there will be further rounds of strike because they are not willing to come back to the negotiation table unfortunately, recklessly I would say. In fact it’s a reckless management all together. Back to that staff travel issue. Staff travel makes them millions (by providing a multi lingual service to customers). He’s reckless in every way. We are perfectly willing to be at the negotiation table. He says he’s willing but he’s not available, he’s not interested…
AS: He’s available to accept surrender, that’s about it really.
FP2: Yeah that’s exactly right. So yes I think there will be further rounds of strikes and the fact of the matter is that we can do this a lot longer than he can.

AS: One final question. Certainly BASSA has the fighting spirit to carry on for a long strike but do you think perhaps other workers at BA, particularly Unite members should be brought into this dispute to shorten it and bring Willie Walsh to his senses?
FP2: Well I’m all for that sort of solidarity but that is a question for Unite. Personally I think that is the way to go to bring workers out in support but BA is a very disparate workforce and solidarity is difficult to achieve. I know that we have got an incredible amount of solidarity from international workforces, from the Teamsters from other airlines etc but within BA itself? That said the ground staff within BA have their own disputes. Everyone in BA has disputes with the company. I agree personally that that is the way to go but that’s a question for Unite.

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1 Comment

  1. […] Air strike has explained here and here the staff discount actually benifits BA and is essential to staff who live abroad. Restoring it […]


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