BA bosses try to control union

This article was carried in The Socialist newspaper on 27th October

The latest offer by British Airways management to cabin crew aimed at resolving this long running dispute was released on 20 October. The deal is broadly similar to the one rejected in August, although there is a slightly improved pay offer for existing crew.

On the burning question of the staff travel discount, which was removed by management as punishment for taking industrial action, there is also a slight improvement. Certain aspects of the discount were re-instated on 21 October. The remainder of the discount will not be restored until 1 April 2013. There are also guarantees about preserving existing terms and conditions.

However these slight concessions are dwarfed by some truly astounding conditions management have foisted on the union. First of all the union was forced to recommend the offer to members otherwise the deal would have been withdrawn. Not content with this interference into internal union democracy, BA are insisting that any future communications by the union with cabin crew be ‘fair and balanced’. Presumably the company will be the arbiter of this.

In a grotesque inversion of reality the company insists it “will continue to ensure that its communications are balanced and objective.”

There appears to be no mention of reinstating union members who lost their jobs during the dispute. The deal also stipulates that if a victimised employee goes beyond the ACAS process and takes legal action, Unite will offer no financial or legal support.

Although there are certain guarantees of a pay rise these are conditional on the absence of industrial action over the lifetime of the agreement. In effect a no strike agreement.

Finally, new entrants will be on inferior terms and conditions. At a stroke, cabin crew at BA have gone from having the best terms and conditions in the industry to a section of crew having some of the worst.

If the deal is rejected Unite will immediately issue a ballot for further strike action. On the basis of this offer, rejection is in the best interests of cabin crew and workers at BA as a whole. The interference into internal union affairs by management is the thin end of the wedge.

If a new ballot is launched, Unite should invite the senior reps of the other sections of the BA workforce, including members of other unions, to a meeting to discuss practical steps to support further cabin crew action and defend trade union rights at the company.

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