Socialist Worker

Step up the fight to beat the British Airways bosses

by Tom Walker
Issue No. 2204

Striking BA cabin crew remain defiant—despite their boss Willie Walsh’s bullying and intimidation. They face attacks on their jobs, pay and their union.

The Unite union members are taking part in the latest wave of action at the company—which was set to continue until Wednesday of next week.

The strikes have increased the pressure on Walsh, but the stakes are getting even higher.

On 12 June it will be 12 weeks since the first set of strikes in March. Walsh will legally be able to sack anyone who strikes after that date.

Unite has pledged that there will be no strikes during the World Cup.

This is a mistake as it will give Walsh more breathing space.

Unite has to act urgently to win. Tony Woodley, joint leader of Unite, told the union’s conference this week, “There is only one thing to do with bullies—that is stand up to them.

Reballot

“We are not and never will be prepared to see our members and our union humiliated, victimised and reduced to ruins.”

Woodley is demanding that Walsh agrees a negotiated end to the strike. But BA bosses are not interested in compromise—they want blood.

BA management have suspended more than 50 strikers from work, including union reps, and have sacked eight. Willie Walsh has taken travel concessions from all strikers.

There are plans for a reballot on the issue of travel allowances and victimisations.

The union says that this will mean striking workers cannot be sacked because it will create another 12 week “window” of protected action.

But the law is unclear on the matter, and more importantly a reballot risks narrowing the dispute.

It means putting aside the original issues that the strikes were about.

Lee, a striker, told Socialist Worker, “Walsh is vindictive—it costs him nothing to give us back our staff travel but he won’t do it.

“The real issue here is the fact that he sacked people with no agreement in November.

“Walsh’s strategy is about attacking the union.

In the last 13 years BA has taken £5.6 billion in revenue, and it found loads of money to fight the strike.”

“People are scared to speak out,” said Susan, on the picket line. “There’s a culture of fear. BA makes it clear that it’s the end of you if you so much as mention what’s going on.

“Meanwhile it’s dangling the carrot of promotion for those who work during the strike.

“The reality is that Willie Walsh is trying to make massive profits by breaking Bassa and turning BA into a low-cost airline.”

Despite the workers’ low pay, many have bought their own tickets and travelled across Europe to join the picket line.

“I’m staying in a bed and breakfast,” said striker Carlos. “I don’t live in Britain but I wanted to be here.”

Solidarity

Teachers in the NUT union and PCS civil service workers came to offer their solidarity last Sunday. The strikers cheered as the PCS delegation arrived with their banner.

BA is trying to demoralise strikers by claiming that the strike is having little effect. But some of the BA flights that are running are leased from other airlines, complete with crew.

This is costing bosses at least £7 million a day.

Willie Walsh can be beaten if the union steps up the action. That means getting other BA workers involved, and pushing for powerful solidarity action that can shut down Heathrow.

Names have been changed to protect cabin crew

How you can support the BA strikers

  • Invite a BA striker to your union branch or workplace to explain the dispute and build support. Contact chairman@bassa.co.uk
  • Pass a motion in your union supporting the strikers and donating to the strike fund
  • Visit picket lines at Heathrow from 8am on strike days—from now to 3 June and 5 to 9 June inclusive
  • Collect for the strike fund. Take your collection to the picket line, or pay in to Bassa strike fund, Lloyds TSB account number 36744668, sort code 30-94-77 or send to Bassa 2000 Strike Fund, 29 Sunmead Road, Sudbury-on Thames, TW16 6PF
  • Messages of support to chairman@bassa.co.uk


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