Socialist Worker

Vote no to appalling British Airways deal

Issue No. 2227

British Airways (BA) cabin crew have still not been allowed to begin a ballot on the latest offer in their dispute.

Bassa, the cabin crew section of the Unite union, say it is considering legal aspects of it before starting a ballot.

The union has called an emergency meeting for stewards—but not for crew.

The union has not given crew an opportunity to discuss the offer or any other aspect of their dispute.

The offer is appalling. It does not reverse job cuts that BA boss Willie Walsh imposed a year ago. It threatens all existing union agreements.

It enshrines a two-tier workforce with the new mixed fleet—where workers will be employed on lower pay and worse conditions. It leaves sacked and suspended crew with nothing.

Most despicably, Unite has agreed that it will not aid any worker who wants to take legal action against BA—and is recommending that crew accept the deal.

Most crew are rightly against it. Some sacked workers have issued an open letter asking union members to throw out the offer.

It reads, “BA has suggested that we must agree to binding Acas arbitration by people over whom only BA have a right of veto.

“In return for this, our union, to whom we as loyal members have paid our dues over many years, will undertake to withdraw all direct and indirect financial and legal support if we should decide to pursue our cases through the established system of an employment tribunal.”

It points out that few workers could afford to take on BA without union support and that this could encourage the sacking of more workers.

Workers must organise independently to hold their union reps to account.

They must demand the chance to properly discuss their own dispute—if necessary calling a meeting themselves. They should campaign for a huge No vote when the ballot begins.

Unite also lost a court action against BA last week, when it argued that imposed job cuts were a breach of contract.

The way to beat Walsh is not to plead with judges or hope that he will have a change of heart. Hard-hitting strikes that shut down Heathrow are the way to win.


Below is the open letter that some sacked cabin crew at British Airways have issued to Unite union members. We have not printed the signatories to protect workers.

Our futures depend on your votes.

The current proposal upon which you will shortly be asked to vote concerns, in part, the rights of cabin crew like us who have been sacked by BA because of the Industrial Dispute. It's nice to know we have our own appendix in BA’s offer but we have no vote on it.

BA has suggested that we must agree to binding ACAS arbitration by people over whom only BA have a right of veto. In return for this, our union, to whom we as loyal members have paid our dues over many years, will undertake to withdraw all direct and indirect financial and legal support if we should decide we wish to pursue our cases through the established system of an Employment Tribunal.

At the moment, we already have a legal right to request such arbitration and BA can accept this if they should wish to do so. Unfortunately they have not, as far as any of us are aware, agreed to any such arbitration. This proposal does not grant us any additional rights but instead strips away our Union's support for us as union members without any ability for us to have a democratic say in how our affairs should be managed in the future. Legal costs for such an action could exceed £20,000 if we were to be forced into this position and few of us would be able to pursue our cases if the Union, through their solicitors, were not able to back us at a Tribunal.

Worse still, at a Tribunal, individual managers are personally liable for any decision that they have taken as part of the disciplinary procedure. By removing our right to union representation at a Tribunal, none of those who have mistreated cabin crew, with their campaign to weaken our union through destroying individual careers, will ever be held to account. In fact such an arrangement will lift the fear of how they will be viewed by the Courts and could embolden such people even further. A vote to accept this offer could in fact lead to an increase in the number of cabin crew dismissed by BA purely because the hearing managers will no longer be worried about being held to such account in the courts.

As we have said above, as we are no longer employed by BA, we do not have a vote on this offer. However, our futures, our union’s backing and our legal rights are being traded between Unite and BA. We, it seems, are not people with civil liberties who should be consulted about any decisions on our lives but merely pawns in a bigger game.

If we did have a vote, it would be No.

When you have the chance to vote on this offer, we urge you to think of us. We can’t vote but we urge those of you that can, to do so wisely and in the full knowledge that our situation could also be yours.


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News
Tue 9 Nov 2010, 18:50 GMT
Issue No. 2227
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