Round 3: Cabin crew announce 20 days of strike action

British Airways cabin crew are set to take 20 days strike action starting May 18th. The industrial action will take place in four blocs of five days with a one day ‘breather’ in between. The strike action was called after the two sides were unable to come to an agreement over management’s refusal to restore the staff travel discount or reverse the victimisation of over 50 staff members including the Branch Secretary of BASSA Duncan Holley. In an online poll 81% of union members rejected the new deal put up by the company.

It would seem the idea behind breaking up the strike days is to allow time for negotiation without having to call off strike action. It is a well worn tactic of management to refuse to enter talks while strike action is ongoing. In most cases this is then used to disperse the momentum built up by action in fruitless negotiations. The one day break in between action will not be sufficient time to clear the backlog of flights from the previous day’s action before the next bloc of action resumes. According to the Financial Times union reps in the company felt harder hitting action was necessary to underline the seriousness of Unites position, pointing out that the only time Walsh looked shocked during this dispute was when the 12 days of strike action was announced in December.

This escalation of the dispute is an inevitable outcome of management’s failure to address the issue of victimisation. 50 cabin crew more or less means very little to the company in monetary terms. But for a union, built as it is on the concept of collective action to protect individual members, the idea that these 50 members could be expendable to achieve a deal was totally unrealistic. Unite would lose all credibility as a union among cabin crew if it allowed those suspensions, arising out of an industrial dispute, to stand. As a former union negotiator, Willie Walsh would be perfectly well aware of this. The intransigence on victimisation throws the sincerity of managements offer to reinstate some deleted cabin crew posts, one of the original triggers for this dispute, into doubt. After all management could put all manner of concessions into a deal they knew cabin crew could not agree to.

BA is now making noises that it intends to seek an injunction on upcoming strike action on the grounds that the dispute is now over victimisation and staff travel discounts rather than contractual changes. However as the wording of the ballot makes clear; (“Trade dispute with British Airways PLC- Cabin crew members including all matters arising out of and in consequences of the dispute. Are you prepared to take part in strike action?”) All matters that arise from the dispute, such as withdrawing staff travel as punishment for taking part in lawful strike action are also grounds for strike action. Nevertheless given the blatantly biased nature of recent industrial relations court ruling an injunction can not be ruled out.

BA is undoubtedly in a weaker position financially thanks to the recent volcano. 20 days of strike action may well concentrate minds in the board room towards reaching a deal agreeable to all sides. However as with the previous days of strike action there is still the question of whether widening this dispute across the company can shorten the sacrifice cabin crew will make to win the dispute. The sacking of Duncan Holley demonstrates what management has in store for reps that refuse to accept BA’s diktats in the rest of the company. If other senior reps at BA are not worried by this development then they are not paying attention. There is still an urgent need to convene a joint meeting of the senior reps at the company to discuss how this dispute can be broadened to beat off Wille Walsh’s union busting drive once and for all.

As always we would urge readers to send messages of support to BASSA at office@bassa.co.uk and Amicus Cabin Crew at cc89@mac.com.

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2 Comments

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  2. […] Round 3: Cabin crew announce 20 days of strike action « Air Strike. Air Travel News none […]


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