“This was our chance to stand up. The union has sold us short.” That was the response of one of the 200 British Airways (BA) cabin crew who attended a heated T&G union meeting at Heathrow on Monday.
Tony Woodley, general secretary of the T&G, was challenged several times from the floor over the details of the deal reached recently with BA bosses. The agreement resulted in the union calling off proposed strike action by up to 11,000 cabin crew.
Union reps from the cabin crew voted six to three to accept the proposals.
The deal – which covers pay, pensions and sickness policy – forced BA chief executive Willie Walsh to make concessions, but many cabin crew felt that much more could have been won.
There was a huge mandate for action – with 96 percent voting for strikes.
One T&G member at Monday’s meeting told Socialist Worker that anger at how cabin crew are treated has been building up for some time. He said, “I was working for BA in 1997 – the last time cabin crew were on strike. The depth of feeling and anger is much stronger now.”
He added that he was particularly angry that the union had accepted BA’s attacks on pensions for people who develop a long term sickness, making them unable to fly.
“Under the deal,” he said, “if cabin crew are too sick to fly, they will be forced to take a job in check-in. The union seems to have dropped the ball on this one.”
The battle over the cabin crew deal is not over – union members will get a chance to vote against the deal in a consultative ballot in the next few weeks.
There are a number of other disputes at BA. On Monday, as cabin crew met, the GMB union, which represents around 4,500 BA workers, announced a 68 percent vote against BA’s pensions proposals in a consultative ballot.
Also, workers due to transfer to the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow are reported to have voted to reject BA’s proposed new working conditions. Many groups of BA workers are due to begin pay talks from next week.