An appalling sell-out is on the table at British Airways (BA), where cabin crew have been in dispute for nearly a year—and their Unite union backs it.
Workers must organise now to build a huge no vote and reject the deal.
It does not reverse the job cuts that sparked the dispute. It does not guarantee the full reinstatement of workers’ staff travel discounts—and promises harsher terms for those workers who struck.
It enshrines the new “mixed fleet”, where workers will be employed on lower pay, worse conditions and have separate bargaining rights from the rest of crew.
Perhaps most shocking of all, it guarantees nothing for those crew who have been disciplined, suspended or sacked after fighting to defend their jobs and conditions.
The agreement states that if any worker initiates legal action against BA “that is not within the ambit of the Acas arbitration scheme, Unite will withdraw all direct and/or indirect support and assistance to that Relevant Employee, including legal support, immediately and permanently.” Workers who wanted to bring an Employment Tribunal against BA would have no support from their union.
Disgracefully, Unite is recommending that crew accept this deal.
BA boss Willie Walsh vindictively removed staff travel concessions during the dispute.
There is no mention of the discounts in the new offer.
Only in a covering letter to TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, does Walsh say he has restored concessions to strikers—but without seniority.
Seniority means that crew who have worked for BA longest have first choice of flights.
Walsh points out that these discounts are “non contractual”—implying that they can be taken back at any time.
The letter says Walsh will “recommend” restoring remaining concessions including seniority—but only if workers meet a number of conditions.
First is “acceptance and implementation of the agreement”. Second is a host of offensive demands regarding the “behaviour” of Unite and its cabin crew section Bassa.
These include demanding that the union’s communications are “more balanced and measured”, and that is more “understanding to the needs of the company”.
The third condition is that Unite will not back any litigation against the company.
And finally, Walsh points out that his letter “is not a binding contract”—giving him enormous scope to avoid restoring the full travel concessions, which he isn’t even promising he will do until 2013.
Joint general secretary of Unite, Tony Woodley, has previously said that removal of seniority for strikers was a punishment for taking action and that the union could never support it.
The offer also says that, unless Unite and BA agree a “mutually agreeable framework” over union rights within eight weeks “then the company will serve notice on all of the existing facilities arrangements” and merely implement the legal minimum.
Unite is proposing that workers surrender to a ruthless, bullying boss.
But not everyone wants to do this.
Walsh demanded that Unite and Bassa recommend that workers accept the deal. Bassa says on its website, “For this reason alone, your union will fulfil that request.”
It goes on to say that, if workers vote against the offer, “the union will issue an immediate ballot for strike action”.
The union should have refused to put such a disgraceful document out to ballot.
It should have called a fresh strike ballot instead.
The vast majority of crew discussing the offer on the Bassa forum are against it.
If Walsh rams through his attacks, every boss in Britain will be emboldened to go on the offensive. The stakes are high.
Workers must reject the offer and take action, official or unofficial, to beat Walsh.