The battle lines between union-busting British Airways (BA) boss Willie Walsh and 14,000 cabin crew workers have been drawn.
Walsh is intent on slashing jobs, cutting pay and ripping up working agreements. He has already imposed damaging cuts on cabin crew numbers without agreement with the workers’ Unite union.
But workers are refusing to take it – and have hit him with plans for a spectacular 12-day strike, set to begin on Tuesday of next week.
Cabin crew delivered a massive 92 percent vote for action with over 80 percent turning out to vote in the ballot.
This magnificent result shows the strength of feeling and determined spirit to fight that exists among workers.
“We worked hard in the good times and made BA lots of profits,” Amir, a cabin crew member, told Socialist Worker.
“They should have kept some of that money for the bad times. It’s not our fault that we’re now in a recession. I have to pay my mortgage and my bills, yet BA wants to cut my wages.”
Walsh says he needs to make cuts to save money.
He says he has no choice but to attack staff – and much of the media will back him up.
But what he’s really interested in is union-busting – and the workers know it.
Walsh built his callous reputation when he was chief executive of the Irish airline Aer Lingus – where he slashed a third of the workforce and pushed privatisation.
“What BA really wants is to end the union,” said Amir. “We know Willie Walsh is a bully because we saw what he did at Aer Lingus. But I’m not worried because we are strong.”
Walsh expects workers to swallow the cuts – while he grabs thousands of pounds. Last year he got a pay rise of 6 percent.
His basic salary was £735,000, compared to a basic wage of around £18,700 for a cabin crew member.
On top of this, BA, which claims it has no money, threw an extra £90,000 into his pension fund.
Walsh is proud of his bullying reputation. As he put it when he was at Aer Lingus, “A reasonable man gets nowhere in negotiations.” But this time he may be in for a shock.
Bosses everywhere will be watching this battle closely.
They know that if Walsh is pushed back then other workers facing similar attacks will have more confidence to fight.
BA gives a snapshot of the bitterness that exists everywhere – and shows the potential for resistance to break through.