Peace in our time? The agreement between cabin crew and management.

Copy write: Paul Mattsson/The Socialist

On 12 May at a mass members’ meeting, Unite British Airways cabin crew voted to put the latest agreement between the union and management to a ballot of the membership. This appears to be the final chapter in one of the longest running disputes in Britain for a generation.

Since a mass meeting in October 2009 voted overwhelmingly to ballot for strike action there have been a number of twists and turns in this epic battle.

The original dispute was sparked off by management’s plans to alter the terms and conditions of cabin crew. Chief among these changes was a reduction of in-flight staffing numbers and the introduction of new cabin crew on much worse pay and conditions. To give just one example new crew are now given less than a day’s rest between long haul flights to Las Vegas. The turnover rate among new crew, who have been operating at the company since 2009 is reported to be high as many burn out from physical exhaustion.  Given the amount of time and money that goes into training cabin crew this high turn over rate simply underlines the self-defeating nature of eroding terms and conditions in pursuit of a short-term boost to profits and of course, executive bonuses.

These changes were imposed on cabin crew without the agreement of the union. In these circumstances cabin crew had no option but to fight in order to maintain the credibility of their union as a force that could effectively defend their interests.

But the cabin crew were unable to win a quick early victory. Among the reasons for this were the anti-trade union laws, the long delays in action and the failure to broaden the dispute across the entire workforce.

While the cabin crew and their elected reps showed tremendous determination, serious question marks must hang over the conduct of the national union leadership during the course of this dispute. It is clear that management was able to impose change on cabin crew because they were isolated from other sections of the workforce at the company. This allowed management more time to organise to counter the dispute. Special mention must go to the leadership of the pilots union BALPA who played an absolutely baleful role in this dispute. Despite the fact that a significant number of pilots acted as “volunteer” cabin crew during days of strike action, BALPA refused to issue a public statement advising members not to engage in scab behaviour. In a statement issued in January 2010 BALPA General Secretary Jim McAuslan said

“We understand a number of pilots have responded to BA’s call for volunteers to keep the airline operating through any strike and from their postings it is clear that this is out of concern for their own futures and that of other employees.

“For the avoidance of doubt, Balpa’s position on this is neutral and we will not dictate to our members.”

This is in contrast to the GMB who correctly advised their members it was not in their interests to undermine a dispute of their fellow BA workers.

From the resulting stalemate management went on the offensive, refusing to substantially negotiate and embarking on a vindictive witch-hunt against union members.

Staff travel concessions were withdrawn from those who had taken lawful strike action while leading Unite stewards were disciplined and even sacked. Trade union facility time agreements were effectively torn up.

Documents leaked to the Guardian reported on management plans to sideline the main cabin crew Unite branch BASA (British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association). The dispute had morphed into a battle to maintain the continued existence of  the union among crew.

The union failed to reverse the imposed changes and since December the focus of industrial action has centred on pushing back management’s witch-hunt against staff and limiting the worst effects of the impositions. This included the reduction in pay resulting from more lucrative longer haul routes being assigned to newer crew on inferior pay.

The key demands in the final ballot for strike action were the following:

The immediate restoration of staff travel concessions, in full, to the crew from whom they were taken by BA. Binding arbitration, through ACAS, of all cabin crew disciplinary cases related to the original dispute.

The restoration of all earnings docked from crew who were off sick during strike dates.

Full and proper discussion of the trade union facilities agreement at the company with the immediate removal of all threats and sanctions made by BA in relation to this.

Reading through the terms of the new agreement it appears these demands have been partially accepted by the company. Staff travel will be restored once the agreement is implemented. On the issue of victimisations management has agreed to binding arbitration at ACAS.

Socialists are clear that ACAS is no friend of the trade union movement, nevertheless putting the final decision regarding disciplinaries in their hands is an improvement on the situation where the decision rested with management and was being used as a method to witch-hunt trade unionists. However it is unclear at the present time whether this covers sacked activists such as Duncan Holley, BASSA branch secretary, who took his case to an employment tribunal and lost.

The agreement also pledges to honour existing trade union facility time, a big concession from management who had previously been attempting to disrupt the operation of the union among cabin crew by often refusing to grant reps time off to carry out union duties.

This is entirely due to the resilience of cabin crew under the most unbelievable bullying and harassment by an entirely vindictive management, not to mention constant vilification in the media.

However readers of the Air Strike should be clear that as far as the original industrial dispute is concerned, cabin crew were unable to reverse the attacks. There now exists a significant cohort of new starters among cabin crew with much worse terms and conditions. They will exist as a separate bargaining unit to ‘older’ cabin crew on better terms and conditions whose numbers over time will diminish due to natural wastage.

It cannot be ruled out that management will return at a future date looking for yet more concessions from cabin crew and will hope to play off different sections of cabin crew against each other. There are fears among reps in other sections of the BA workforce that the contract of new cabin crew may be applied to the rest of the company.

As the largest union in BA Unite was in a unique position to bring about a more united approach. It would be naïve to believe this could be easily done or that there were not pre-existing divisions amongst the workforce that management could exploit. Nevertheless there were a number of steps Unite could have taken in order to overcome this.

For example, once it became clear BA management were intent on union-busting, Unite could have called a meeting of all senior trade unions reps at the company to put the case for cabin crew to the wider workforce. During the course of this two-year dispute, other sections of Unite at BA were also in dispute with management. At the very least the union could have explored ways to coordinate action between the different sections. It would appear there was no attempt to do so and the opportunity of bringing the maximum pressure to bear on management was lost.

Although the joint agreement is littered with ringing phrases committing the company and Unite to a new era of amity and cooperation, this will prove to be short-lived as the global economy stagnates and oil prices continue to rise remorselessly. In order to maintain profit levels management will return at some point in the not too distant future demanding further concessions in pay, terms and conditions from staff. Thanks to the steadfastness of cabin crew, workers at BA will have the benefit of strong union representation to defend against further attacks but the main lesson to be drawn from this dispute in the future is that isolation of sections strengthens the hand of management.

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BA DISPUTE: SUPPORT THE RIGHT TO STRIKE

We post below a press release from the National Shop Stewards Network on the latest attempt by the employer to block BA Cabin Crew from taking lawful industrial action. See www.shopstewards.net for more information.

BA DISPUTE: SUPPORT THE RIGHT TO STRIKE

Trade Unionists across the country will be shocked that, yet again, bosses at BA have forced UNITE Cabin Crew to re-ballot through a combination of intimidation and a ‘legal blitz’.

Rob Williams, National Shop Stewards Network vice-chair and convenor of its anti-cuts committee said:

Yet again today, the BA cabin crew are on the receiving end of blatantly biased legislation preventing them taking action after jumping through legal hoops to comply with anti-trade union laws that are already the most undemocratic in Western Europe. We offer them and their union Unite our full support as with the RMT who have also been affected over the last few weeks.

This is clearly an attempt to prevent working-people legitimately using their hard won democratic rights to defend their jobs, terms & conditions and pensions.

Workers will be well aware of the hypocrisy of the government when they talk about democracy abroad at the same time that they are enabling a bosses’ dictatorship at home. However, we in the NSSN have every confidence that British workers will prove just as able as their counterparts in the Middle East at fighting oppression.

Supporters of the NSSN stand fully behind UNITE Cabin Crew in their dispute and pledge to assist them in any way possible.

Fighting the anti-trade union laws

Trade Unionists lobbying parliament - trying to persuade at least 100 MPs to turn up at John McDonnell's Lawful Industrial Action bill's second reading, to prevent the Tories crushing it, photo Suzanne Beishon

This article was originally carried in The Socialist newspaper on October 20th.

On 22 October, two days after the government announces its savage public spending cuts, left Labour MP John McDonnell’s Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill has its second reading. The Bill aims to change the law to prevent the courts granting employers injunctions against strike action because of minor technical errors in industrial action ballots. (Since the publication of this article the Bill failed to get it’s second reading because not enough Labour MP’s bothered to turn up to vote for it. Editor)

Jim Horton

If allowed to fall, the government’s axe to public spending will result in a devastation of public services. Tens of thousands of public sector workers will lose their jobs. Private sector workers will not be immune from the jobs cull. Those remaining in work face a management offensive against their terms and conditions.

Decisive in stopping the Con-Dem assault will be industrial action by public sector unions. Yet in their arsenal the bosses have a raft of anti-union laws introduced by Thatcher, which New Labour refused to repeal when they were in power.

In the past year several unions, including Unite and the RMT, have had strike action thwarted by the courts’ application of a strict interpretation of the onerous balloting and notification procedures of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA). This is despite huge majorities in ballots.

Most notoriously on two occasions Unite members working for British Airways fell foul of the court’s pro-big business bias. In December 2009 cabin crew voted for strike action by a margin of 92.5% on a ballot turnout of 80% of 12,000 workers. Scandalously the courts granted BA an injunction because a handful of members who voted had already accepted redundancy. And again in May this year BA initially successfully used the High Court to frustrate a strike of BA cabin staff, 80% of whom had voted for action. This was on the flimsy grounds that Unite had failed to comprehensively communicate that out of 9,282 ballots cast, eleven (0.1%) were spoiled. Unite had put the full result, including spoilt ballot papers, on its website and union notice boards. In both instances the claimed minor flaws made absolutely no difference to the ballot result. Although Unite’s appeal against the ruling was upheld, this was not a harbinger of changed legal bias in favour of the unions.

Last year the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Metrobus against Unite’s 90% vote in favour of strike action, claiming that the 20 hours it took the union to notify the employers of the result did not comply with the legal requirement to notify ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’. Furthermore, the union had failed to explain that the number of members to be balloted had been taken from its central computer. Again these ‘defects’ did not affect the overwhelming support for action.

Also last year EDF won a High Court injunction against the RMT on the grounds that the union’s notice to EDF which described 65 members as engineers/technicians did not give their precise job description.

Section 232b of the TULRCA states that ‘accidental’ errors made ‘on a scale unlikely to affect the result of the ballot’ should be disregarded. However, as recent decisions have revealed, the courts have given an unfavourable interpretation of ‘accidental’ and declared that notices to employers are not included in the protection.

John McDonnell’s Bill should be supported by all trade unionists. Its provisions state that all small accidental failures in ballots and notices, and minor errors in the information about the ballot result, will be disregarded; and the burden of proof will shift so that the evidence required will be that of ‘substantial compliance’. At the same time the unions’ sponsored MPs should put down a motion in parliament calling for the abolition of all the anti-trade union laws.

There is no right to strike under British law. Every industrial action is a breach of the employment contract leaving the union exposed to being sued for damages by the employer. Since 1906 there has been statutory protection from common law where industrial action was in contemplation of or furtherance to an industrial dispute. In the 1980s Thatcher limited the scope of this protection and enacted the additional hurdles of the complex balloting and notification procedures.

In the unlikely event that McDonnell’s Bill reaches the statute books, the vast bulk of the anti-union laws will remain in place. The whole history of industrial relations law also shows that the courts are more than willing to interpret any law in the bosses’ favour.

In fact workers now face further legal restrictions on their rights. Citing increased labour tensions, the employers’ organisation the CBI is pushing for a tightening of the ballot rules so that a strike can only go ahead if a minimum of 40% of the balloted workforce supports it (in addition to a simple majority of those voting). In the past the Tories have proposed the removal of immunity for industrial action that has a disproportionate or excessive effect, which potentially could apply to all strike action.

Some unions are looking towards the European Court of Human Rights to provide a bit of legal protection, but recent decisions of the European Court of Justice have placed the economic interests of the bosses ahead of the ‘disproportionate’ effect of workers asserting their rights.

No trade unionist would lightly risk sequestration of a union’s funds by recklessly ignoring the law. But in the months and years ahead big industrial battles loom. Where the bosses’ anti-union laws are used to frustrate majority support for strike action, or where its provisions act as a shackle on workers taking unavoidable spontaneous or solidarity action, then in such circumstances the unions will have no choice but to support the ‘unlawful’ but justified action of their members.

High Court overturns injunction on cabin crew strike

In a decision delivered earlier this morning the High Court has granted the appeal by Unite to overturn the previous injunction on strike action by BA cabin crew. The court granted the appeal by a margin of 2-1.

It took the judges over an hour to read out the judgement, perhaps reflecting the fact that they wished to settle a contentious aspect of industrial relations law. Justice Smith stated that although Unite could have done more to provide the correct information about the result of the ballot BA had; ” failed to persuade me that what was done was insufficient to amount to compliance with the requirements” she also added that; “It was a fair and open ballot and not to uphold the appeal would mean that the rights of workers to withdraw their labour would be undermined.”

The strike action is now back on although Unite Joint General Secretary Derek Simpson confirmed that no strike would take place before Monday.

Cabin crew outside the High Court were overjoyed at the news and any friend of the trade union movement will be delighted by the judgement. Had the orignal injunction been allowed to stand it would have been a huge blow to trade union rights. The 1992 Act on which this judgement and other similar recent injunctions is based, is so crammed full of technicalities that the union must carry out in order to have a legal ballot that the recent strict interpretation by the courts made compliance almost impossible, thereby rendering strike action illegal for all practical purposes, should employers decide to persue an injunction.

As the statement by Justice Smith makes clear, the court were aware of the implications for future strike action if the appeal was not upheld.  

It’s important to understand that the intent of the anti-trade union laws is not to make strike action illegal but to slow down the ability of trade unions to respond swiftly and decisively to attacks by employers. This is done by making the union jump through a series of hoops which gives the employer time to undermine strike action.

Making strike action effectively illegal through a strict interpretation of the 1992 Act would be a massive provocation towards the trade union movement. Such an environment would be highly volatile and unpredictable for employers wanting to avoid unofficial national action along the lines of the construction engineers dispute at Lindsey oil refinery last summer.

The courts have stepped back from such a situation for the time being. However despite the undoubted fact that this is a positive ruling for the trade union movement it does not necessarily mean the end of legitimate strike ballots being over-turned on a technicality. This particular injunction relied on section 231 of the 1992 Act. This lays down the procedures for informing the membership of the result of the ballot. The injunction last December on cabin crew was based on section 226 of the Act. 

However probably the most ludicrous example is that of a recent strike ballot by journalists at Johnston Press where an injunction was granted on the grounds that Johnston Press didn’t employ any journalists! Although it will have to be tested in case-law it would be perfectly possible for employers to argue that today’s judgement only concerns the operation of section 231. A quick glance at the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidated) Act 1992 will reveal that there are hundreds of technicalities that could lead to an injunction on strike action.

So although today is a victory for the whole of the trade union movement the wider problem of the anti-trade union laws remains.

Debating the anti-trade union laws on BBC Radio Wales

This morning Neil Cafferky, one of the contributors to Air Strike blog appeared on BBC Radio Wales to discuss the recent injunction placed on planned industrial action by BA cabin crew.

The discussion begins at 2:08:00 and can be heard here. The link will only be available for the next six days. Laurie Price a former BA executive also takes part later on in the program.

An industrial dictatorship

“The strictest law often causes the most serious wrong.”

Cicero

Earlier this evening British Airways was granted an injunction against a proposed 20 day strike by cabin crew. The decision was based on a technicality regarding the method UNITE used to inform cabin crew of the result of the ballot. This judgement has enormous implications for the whole of the trade union movement. For all practical purpose effective strike action that seriously damages the financial interests of the employer is now illegal. It was Tony Blair who once boasted that Britain had the most restrictive anti-trade union laws in the Western World. This judgement now relegates Britain below many neo-colonial countries in terms of trade union rights.

The specific law that British Airways relied on is section 231 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 which states: “As soon as is reasonably practicable after the holding of the ballot, the trade union shall take such steps as are reasonably necessary to ensure that all persons entitled to vote are informed of the number of…” and then outlines the information they must provide, namely the number of votes cast as well as the votes for, against and spoiled ballots.

In case there is any doubt, the democracy of the cabin crew decision to take strike action is not in question here, simply the method UNITE used to inform cabin crew of the result. As Unite’s National Officer Steve Turner pointed out immediately after the injunction was granted; UNITE used all forms of modern communication to inform their members of the result. It took this writer an arduous 15 seconds to find the ballot result on Unite’s cabin crew website, which can be read here. The fact that a High Court judge could believe that UNITE did not take “such steps as are reasonably necessary” in informing the membership of the result beggars belief. It is difficult to imagine what would be ‘reasonable steps’. Perhaps the result should have been written on illuminated parchment and personally hand delivered on a white stallion to each and every one of Unite cabin crew’s 12,500 members?

This is not the first time legal technicalities have been used to overturn the democratic wishes of a striking workforce. As well as the previous cabin crew ballot in November similar injunctions also hit the recent RMT rail signaller’s action as well as strikes by London bus workers. The 1992 Act, introduced by the union busting Tory government and maintained and extended by New Labour, runs to 193 pages and is crammed full of similar technicalities. It acts to weigh the dice in favour of employers in any industrial dispute. Even where the union bends over backwards to comply with it they still face the prospect of being dragged through the courts where they will have to convince a High Court Judge they complied with the law. Given the blatantly pro-employer bias of the legal system this seems about as likely as Alan Sugar joining the Salvation Army.

The trade union movement now finds itself effectively hamstrung by the law while facing the worst economic crisis since the 1930’s. A Tory Chancellor is preparing an emergency budget next week that promises to slash public services while private sector employers are using the economic crisis, caused by the super wealthy, to rip up union agreements and drive down wages and conditions. This situation is intolerable!

It is high time that trade union leaders drew the conclusion that the law is guaranteed to always be on the bosses’ side. There is an urgent need to begin a discussion at all levels of the trade union movement on a fighting response to the bosses offensive against wages and conditions that includes defying the anti trade union laws where necessary. If the Tories threaten to sequester the funds of a particular union for breaking the law other unions must be prepared to come to their defence. At the very least the trade unions should immediately call for a mass demonstration outside Heathrow in support of cabin crew and in defence of the right to strike.

This judgement also brings into sharp focus the question of political representation for working people. 100 years ago the fore runners of the RMT, the NUR, faced a similar situation to cabin crew. They were liable to pay enormous sums to an employer they were in dispute with for taking industrial action, thanks to the invidious anti trade union laws at the time. The NUR could see that neither of the two big parties the Conservative and the Liberals (who at the time had the support of the trade unions) were going to repeal the law. Why would they? The Liberals and Conservatives were, and still are, big business parties and the anti-trade union laws were in the interests of big business. The NUR drew the conclusion that in order to continue to defend their members effectively against unjust anti union laws they needed to set up their own political party to represent them that would pass laws in the interests of working people. This was the beginnings of the Labour Party whose rise led to the end of the Victorian anti trade union laws.

Today the trade union movement faces a similar situation.  All the three main political parties support the anti trade union laws, including New Labour, the recipients of millions of pounds from unions such as Unite. None of the front runners in the race to become Labour leader openly supports repealing the anti trade union laws. Unite, and the rest of the union movement must draw the conclusion that only a new party of working people backed by the trade unions can remove these laws and provide the kind of fighting program we need to resist the employers offensive.

Injunctions and impositions on the railways: Different unions, same problems

The recent injunction of the planned rail signal workers strike by the RMT, using the same legal technicalities as the one that put paid to the BA cabin crew strike in December, are a serious attack on trade union democracy. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Tory anti-trade union laws, defended and extended by New Labour, are being used as a weapon to stop trade unionists taking effective industrial action to defend the living standards of their members.

The following two articles are taken from this weeks edition of the Socialist. The first article is taken from the editorial analysing the biased nature of the anti-trade union laws as well as a program for confronting and defeating them through mass action.

Mobilise to defend the right to strike

Network Rail signallers and maintenance engineers in the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers’ union (RMT) had democratically agreed and planned an effective strike to take place during the four days after the Easter weekend, in defence of jobs, conditions and safety standards. This action was going to bring the entire national rail network to a virtual halt.

But then in their desperation to avoid making concessions, Network Rail bosses went running to the courts to have the strike declared illegal. In a travesty of democracy, the unelected judge did their bidding by arbitrarily overturning workers’ democratic rights and granting an injunction against the strike.

Dictatorial judiciary

This resort to the dictatorial judiciary was being used for the third time in four months, the previous times being against British Airways cabin crew before Christmas and Milford Haven port workers in February. The excuse in each case was alleged infringements of the rigid anti-union laws on balloting or giving notice of action, but the real reason was to try to throw the unions’ plans into disarray and weight the balance of forces in the disputes against the workers involved.

As RMT leader Bob Crow said, following the injunction against his union: “This is a highly political judgement based on a further development of over two decades of vicious anti-trade union laws in the UK”.

The RMT also expressed concern that Network Rail “may have provided the High Court with false information …in their efforts to convince the Court of their case”. Yet it was the RMT that was slurred with the use of fraudulent tactics in the capitalist media: on Radio 4, an interviewer introduced the term “ballot-rigging” when questioning Bob Crow. But even the lawyers in court had not accused the union of ballot-rigging, only ‘errors’. Moreover the RMT’s strike ballot was not even conducted by the RMT; to comply with the anti-union laws it had to be conducted by an ‘independent scrutineer’, which in this case was the Electoral Reform Society.

This judgement shows that any strike can be declared illegal by the courts with their biased, anti-worker nature, when the employers choose to use this weapon that is largely at their disposal.

It is reminiscent of the Taff Vale judgement of 1902, when the railworkers’ union was sued by the Taff Vale Railway Company for taking strike action, and the employer won the case with damages of £23,000 being awarded against the union (equivalent to around £2 million today). That draconian judgement spurred on trade union moves towards forming the Labour Party, a vital step forward at the time; but unfortunately the Labour Party is still being funded by the unions today despite its transformation into being a party serving big business.

Impossible rules

The present anti-union legislation was designed with the precise purpose of obstructing workers from taking effective action, and of making the rules on balloting virtually impossible to adhere to. It is no surprise that reports are emerging of the judge in this latest case having family links with the Tories and also with finance multinational Goldman Sachs that has had major financial dealings with Network Rail.

In the name of ‘democracy’ the New Labour government enforces the anti-trade union laws that were brought in by the Tories, yet this same government was elected with only 35% of the votes of those who voted in the last general election; and with only 22% of the votes of the entire electorate. This was a record low for a winning party in a UK general election.

The last Tory government, elected in 1992, received the votes of only 33% of the registered electorate. It is also the case that the elections that have brought these governments to power have contained plenty of minor ‘irregularities’, including people being registered twice and people being on registers who have long since moved away from the area of the register, but this doesn’t stop these anti-union governments claiming legitimacy.

A last resort

Trade unions and their members regard strike action as a last resort in the fight to defend or improve wages, terms and conditions. The RMT signallers and engineers simply want to prevent compulsory redundancies, unsafe conditions for themselves and the public and detrimental changes to working practices and conditions. The right to withdraw labour is a basic democratic right, without it there is no real democracy – workers are reduced to slave-like conditions, and this is what the courts are attempting to do.

Also, trade union members should be able to decide themselves on the method for taking decisions collectively in their union. The Lindsey oil refinery construction workers decided to strike last year on the basis of a show of hands at a mass meeting, a method deemed illegal by the government but for the workers involved it was the best method in the circumstances they faced. They were able to listen directly to the arguments of other workers, and then take a fast decision.

Where a union is organising national action of a workforce that is spread out, other methods may be more practical or preferred, but the union should democratically decide how it is done, not the agents of their bosses, who are on the other side of the fence. A union should also have the right to conduct any ballot it wants to have itself, and not be forced to subcontract it to a third-party.

When the courts rule a strike illegal, some people may argue that the union can reballot and resume the plan for action, as the BA cabin crew went on to do and the RMT have announced they are doing. But the union suffers huge extra costs in doing this, and more importantly, has the timing of its action dictated by the courts. The cabin crew were stopped from taking action during the Christmas period, and the rail workers during the school Easter holidays, and more importantly for the government, in the weeks before the general election.

Intolerable situation

This is an intolerable situation and must be opposed with the full vigour of the trade union movement as a whole. Where is the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in this battle? Why hasn’t it put its weight behind the RMT with a ‘council of war’ to plan a suitable response?

Union leaders in any union, after proper preparation inside their union and beyond it in the trade union movement, must be prepared at a certain stage to defy court judgements. This does not mean going down an adventurist path and unnecessarily putting the resources of the union at risk; it should be done on the basis of a solid majority of the union’s members being behind the action and a strong understanding among the members of the course of action being taken.

If the courts move to take away the union’s funds, that union must call on the rest of the trade union movement to come to its aid, by mobilising in defence of basic trade union rights.

In the meantime, a full campaign of explanation about the nature and purpose of the anti-trade union laws should be organised by the TUC among all its 6.5 million affiliated workers, to build for a massive national demonstration against these anti-worker laws.

The second article may be of particular interest to BA workers. A member of the RMT who works on the London Underground discusses upcoming industrial action by the RMT and TSSA (Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association) in defence of 800 jobs. Interestingly a leaked LUL management document details their plans to get rid of the old workforce in favour of a new workforce on inferior terms and conditions, much like the plans of BA management for cabin crew.

London Underground workers balloting for action

At a mass meeting in London on 31 March the general secretaries of the RMT and TSSA, Bob Crow and Gerry Doherty, announced that these two rail unions would be holding a simultaneous strike ballot of London Underground workers.

Reg Johnstone

London Underground worker

This is to protest against 800 proposed job cuts by London Underground.

It will also be in protest against the closure of ticket offices. The opening times of ticket offices will be reduced by 2,000 hours a week across 278 stations.

A leaked document from London Underground management describes our workforce as “ageing and entrenched”. This is the same workforce that has just earned the underground an award for being the best metro service in Europe.

‘New blood’

Management want to get in ‘new blood’ and introduce ‘new methods’ – for that read get in new staff on worse conditions, and probably on temporary contracts. Management also want to use large-scale redeployment and tube upgrades to drive out staff.

Health and safety regulations will be discarded and, disgustingly, they may attempt to force staff to work in unsafe conditions using disciplinary procedures if necessary.

The leaked document also suggests that management could look to engineer disputes and then use a dirty propaganda war to win the public to their side, while they sit out a long dispute.

This represents a major attack on a section of workers that have won, through industrial struggle, reasonable wages and conditions.

The conditions we have are the type of conditions all workers should enjoy.

Race to the bottom

If our conditions are driven down then it will be a race to the bottom for all workers in the capital and indeed the rest of the country.

The attacks on workers at British Airways and London Underground and the court decisions against Unite and the RMT are declarations of war against the trade union movement.

The TUC should respond by calling a mass demonstration. They should also begin the process of building support for a one day general strike against the proposed massacre of public services and against the anti-trade union laws. If the TUC does not act then in the meantime an alliance of unions willing to struggle in a coordinated manner needs to be built.