Around 14,000 cabin crew at British Airways (BA) will begin a strike ballot on Monday of next week—the same day that management is due to impose harsh new terms and conditions on cabin crew.
BA bosses want to impose pay cuts and freezes, cut the size of cabin crews, introduce worse contracts for new workers and cut flight allowances.
The ballot result is due in mid-December and a yes vote could lead to strike action before Christmas.
BA announced a half-year loss of £292 million last week—the biggest in its history. Bosses used the loss to intensify attacks on workers—declaring that they want to cut a whopping 12th of the workforce by March next year.
Willie Walsh, BA’s hated chief executive, has blamed lower prices and a drop in business travel for the losses.
This does not explain the assault on BA workers. These attacks were planned before BA was losing money and were outlined in a secret plan called Project Columbus that was leaked to the media in June 2008.
BA made a pre-tax profit of £37 million between April and June 2008—a drop in profits but a profit nonetheless.
BA bosses have done very well out of the boom in the City—on the back of the hard work of committed cabin crew.
Willie Walsh received a 6 percent pay rise in 2008. His basic salary was £735,000. BA also added £90,000 to his pension fund. Walsh sparked outrage at the time by asking workers to join him in working “for free” for a month in a “fight for survival”.
As one cabin crew worker put it, “It’s all very well for Willie Walsh, but my basic is only £11,000 a year.”
Even during times of losses, those at the top are still raking it in. They are determined that it will be workers who pay the price for the economic crisis.
But the level of anger among BA cabin crew, reflected in an angry mass meeting of 3,000 workers last week, means that this may not be so easy.
Unite tried and failed to get a high court injunction against BA for breach of contract on Thursday of last week. The case will return to court in February.
This means that the changes will be forced on workers from Monday.
BA workers have a rich history of unofficial action and walkouts. This history may prove useful in the months ahead.