Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2226

BA strikers protest in June over bosses threatening anyone who speaks out (Pic: Smallman )

BA strikers protest in June over bosses threatening anyone who speaks out (Pic: Guy Smallman)

BA: a ruthless, bullying, intimidating company

I am a suspended British Airways cabin crew member. When I was suspended, I was led from the aircraft like a murderer, escorted through the terminal by two managers, read my rights and sent home.

I was put on anti-depressants and it had a huge impact on my health.

I didn’t tell my parents as I thought they had no need to worry. I used excuses about why I was off work, or faked going to work. Then I stopped answering the phone in case it was them and they caught me out.

The phone never stops ringing. Managers have bullied me on the phone.

When British Airways health services phoned me to arrange a disciplinary, I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t talk on the phone for sobbing—yet they still deemed me fit to attend a disciplinary.

This went on for months. I lost two stone in weight and was always at the doctors. I shut myself off from the world. I never called friends as I felt ashamed—although I’ve done nothing wrong.

I never left the house. When the phone rang or the doorbell went I used to shake and have panic attacks.

All BA literature is delivered by recorded delivery, so every time the postman came I was panicking.

How can a company make someone feel so low?

The charges against me were fiction.

I hate the way that management are ruining a business that cabin crew used to love working for. They are only in it for the profits, the bonuses and anything else they can bleed out of the coffers. We are there because we love our jobs and respect each other and our customers.

Now BA has made a profit, I’m sure Willie Walsh’s excuses for making cuts—that the company was in a “fight for survival”—has been quashed. What excuses will he use now?

The coffers at BA are full. Yet new entrants are now signing contracts for a basic salary of £11,000 a year—in London! Meanwhile Walsh awards himself £1 million bonus and a pay rise. Talk about salt in the wounds!

Now I find myself sitting at home on basic pay, not knowing if I will lose my job.

BA is a ruthless, intimidating, bullying company. There are currently more than 100 crew suspended. What other companies have those sorts of figures?

We all live in fear. Crew who are off sick are frightened to go into work in case they get suspended too. This needs airtime, it needs media attention—the truth needs to come out.

A BA cabin crew worker, by email

Defend Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy, the anti-capitalist activist and award-winning novelist, is facing the wrath of Indian right wingers for speaking out about Kashmir.

Roy attacked the Indian government for viciously repressing the independence movement there. She told of how the army kill and maim

stone-throwing youths, and how police rape women in an effort to quell their resistance.

Now the Hindu-chauvinist bigots of the BJP want Roy to face criminal charges after she said that Kashmir is not an “integral part” of India.

Roy is absolutely right.

The majority-Muslim province was divided between India and Pakistan in 1947 after the British were finally kicked out. Families and communities were torn apart and heavily militarised borders dissected villages and valleys.

Several wars followed as the two states battled for control of the strategically important areas. But neither country was prepared to allow the people of Kashmir to determine whether they wish to be part of India, Pakistan, or an independent state.

Kashmiris have fought for their freedom ever since partition. Socialists should back them all the way.

Rohan Nakaddy, East London

Let down in Italy

As you say in your article ( Italian workers demand ‘Strike, strike, strike’ , 23 October), the level of participation of people and workers on the streets of Italy has been very high.

The problem is that there is not enough trade union or political support for the fight.

Two of the three major unions in Italy—CISL and UIL—have allowed car firm Fiat to trample over workers’ rights, blackmailing them into making local agreements.

This policy has not helped the fight. It is a fight not only for the union but for labour rights.

So the only thing people can do is protest in the streets.

JJ Berco, Signa, Italy

I wish Lib Dems were off on a desert island

Normally I like to listen to Desert Island Discs on Radio 4 on a Sunday morning, where famous people pick songs they’d want to have with them if they were stuck on a desert island.

But this week, the odious creep Nick Clegg was on it. I couldn’t stand to hear someone who is carrying out such appalling cuts that will wreck our lives trying to pretend that he’s an ordinary person.

So I switched the radio off—and thought of the songs Clegg should have chosen:

  • How about It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) by REM—seems to sum up his attitude perfectly.
  • I Wanna Be Your Dog by the Stooges—particularly apt. The Lib Dems can’t get rid of their so-called “principles” fast enough now they’re in bed with the Tories.
  • Creep by Radiohead—enough said.
  • Nowhere Man by the Beatles.
  • Nobody’s Hero by Stiff Little Fingers.
  • Friend of the Devil by the Grateful Dead.

Or he could have gone for Know your Enemy by Rage Against the Machine.

Clegg’s pathetic attempt to show his “human” side only showed how desperate he is to shore up his poll ratings.

He must be secretly aware of the huge public anger that exists against the Tory government and its Lib Dem lapdogs.

Lucy Redcroft, Batley, West Yorkshire

Don’t treat Labour left like pariahs

I was pleased to be part of the anti-cuts demonstration in central London last week, backed by the RMT, FBU and other unions.

But the day was marred for me by the way Andy Littlechild of the National Shop Stewards Network, chairing the rally at the end, treated left wing Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn.

He said that before Corbyn was allowed to speak, he should be made to call for all Labour councils to refuse to implement any cuts.

In the event Corbyn did not respond, going ahead to make his speech anyway.

But to make such sectarian demands of someone who has campaigned against cuts locally and nationally was ludicrous.

Such pledges were not demanded of any other speaker—not even the Unite official who claimed the union’s rotten sell-out deal at BA is some great victory.

In order to build a broad alliance we need to defeat the Tory cuts, we will need to work not only with left wing Labour MPs like Corbyn, but with far more flawed figures on the right of the party.

Demanding oaths from them before we even let them speak is not the way to do that.

Lily Smith, North London

Landlords set rents, not us

It is a disgrace that housing benefit cuts will force people to move out of their houses in central London.

A lot of people will become even poorer by having to pay the sky-high cost of train fares into London for their work.

And it’s not the people claiming housing benefit who set the rents so high to begin with—it’s the greedy landlords.

Susan Agnew, by email

Tonypandy: it was the police

Your article on the Tonypandy miners’ strike of 1910 ( Inspiring unrest , 30 October) fails to mention that it was the chief constable and mine owner who requested troops.

The troops who were dispatched were held at Tidworth.

Instead Churchill, then the Liberal home secretary, deployed Metropolitan police officers—a ready source of manpower.

Gareth Williams, Rhondda

Queen swims in wind money

One way the Tories have tried to claim we’re “all in it together” is by saying they’ve cut the cash handed out to the queen every year.

But in fact she is set to make as much as £200 million from the government’s plans to build windfarms on crown land and pay the royals rent for them.

It turns out that the queen owns Britain’s seabed up to 14 miles out from the coast

Maybe we should tie an anchor to her and send her on a royal visit.

Daisy McCarthy, Manchester

Protesters aren’t animals

I was shocked to see the harsh sentences handed out to animal rights protesters last week.

The “ringleader” Sarah Whitehead, a 53 year old known as “Mumsy”, was jailed for an incredible six years.

Another protester, Jason Mullan, was jailed for three years after the judge viewed a video of him protesting.

It shows nothing more than him shouting passionately about animal rights—and it took place in Paris.

I don’t agree with many of these people’s politics. But they were protesting against what they saw as terrible abuse of animals.

We should defend everyone’s right to protest.

Isobel Humphries, Cardiff

Who watches Swiss banks?

Britain is pushing hard to defend the “right” of the rich to keep their money secret in Swiss bank accounts.

The EU—hardly a left wing organisation—wants the secretive Swiss banks to own up and “share information” on who their clients are.

But Britain has jumped in to stop the tax cheats from being revealed. So our tax system is left as full of holes as Swiss cheese.

Samantha Kirby, Sheffield

Two sides to Tommy’s case?

Keir McKechnie rightly points out why the capitalist class would want to destroy Tommy Sheridan (Letters, 23 October). He was to the fore in a number of campaigns—particularly the fight against the poll tax.

But the latest fiasco in the courts is down to him. This is a self-inflicted wound.

Sheridan’s actions split a fairly successful party—the Scottish Socialist Party.

Jim Miller, Moray

Vodafone is not alone

Congratulations to the protesters who’ve been blockading Vodafone shops over the corporation’s failure to pay £6 billion of tax.

The PCS union says that there’s £120 billion of tax avoided, evaded or uncollected.

But it must be even more, given how much this one firm legally dodged. Vodafone often tells us to “pay as you go”. So why don’t they?

Poppy Lucas, West London

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Article information

Tue 2 Nov 2010, 18:06 GMT
Issue No. 2226
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