Tuesday, 23 March 2010

British Airways strike: what next?

This short article of mine was published on Counterfire last night.

British Airways workers will begin a second round of strike action this Saturday. Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of the Unite union, has promised the 4-day strike will go ahead unless talks begin soon.
The action by BA cabin crew staff will follow the initial 3-day strike which concludes today. No new talks have been arranged.

Woodley, when asked if 12,000 workers would strike again this weekend, replied: "That is as it looks at the moment. I don't think there is any doubt it will go ahead because I don't see a willingness on the part of the company to get a settlement."

The last three days have hit BA, with the company claiming it has lost £7 million each day. Strikers have shown their determination to stand up against BA boss Willie Walsh's pursuit of job cuts and worsening conditions.

Woodley was speaking at a strike rally at Heathrow airport in west London today. One cabin crew member at the rally remarked:

"There are people here who were really wavering but they were caught up in the momentum and not going into work now".

Unite claims only a small fraction of the usual number of flights out of Heathrow and Gatwick went ahead at the weekend.

A British Airways worker, writing for Counterfire today, offers a reminder of why 12,000 cabin crew staff are taking action, despite a culture of fear and insecurity encouraged by the airline's management. They write:

'In the pipeline BA are planning to bring in a new fleet of cabin crew who will be employed on new contracts with less money. They are already training people for this. It means that the job will totally change, with the new fleet being given a basic salary with an hourly rate, with no meal allowances. This will work out to around £800 a month. I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent on that.'

Hundreds of strikers and their supporters took part in a Heathrow rally on Saturday. Lindsey German, reporting on the rally for Counterfire, noted that workers were striking and rallying in defiance of intimidation from the airline. She wrote:

'This is about the future of union organisation. The management will use bullying, intimidation and the spreading of fear to try to force cabin crew to work. So far, most are resisting.'

To maintain that resistance, BA workers need solidarity. Show your support for the cabin crew by passing union resolutions of support or sending messages of solidarity.

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