Socialist Worker

Unite delays BA strikes—again

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2247

The Unite union will not be calling strikes at British Airways this month, it has announced. It has agreed to continue talks with BA bosses instead.

The deadline for Unite to name strike dates, before its recent ballot of cabin crew would have become invalid, was looming. So BA has agreed a 28-day extension in the time that Unite has to call strike dates, so they can continue talks.

Talks of one form or another have been going on for years. But the sacked cabin crew remain sacked. BA continues to sack even more.

Its new “mixed fleet” is up and running, creating a two-tier workforce and threatening to drive pay and conditions down across the board.

And the arrival of a new boss has changed little. BA launched a fresh attack on the rights of pregnant cabin crew just last month.

Talks have stopped none of this. All they have done is leave the ball in BA’s court—and leave crew feeling abandoned.

Cabin crew have made clear their demands in five ballots for strikes. If BA won’t accept these demands, Unite should call strikes now.

The last round of strikes at BA showed the power cabin crew have. Another walkout could beat one of the most savage assaults on workers that is taking place in Britain today.

But there’s a huge danger that union leaders will squander this potential.

The union’s leadership has already watered down the original demands of the workers. Gone is any reference to the job cuts that previous boss Willie Walsh imposed without agreement in November 2009.

Now Unite demands only a “binding independent review of disciplinaries” and “measures to address concerns” about the pay and conditions of mixed fleet workers.

It should be demanding the reinstatement of sacked and disciplined workers and no two-tier workforce.

It is calling for restoration of crew’s staff travel concessions—but only “on implementation of the settlement including a new working relationship with the local representatives”.

The removal of staff travel concessions was nothing but a vindictive attack on strikers. Unite should be demanding the restoration of travel concessions with no conditions.

Len McCluskey, the new general secretary of Unite, promised that he would listen to crew and that he would not repeat the betrayals of the union’s previous leaders.

Those words sound more hollow by the day.

Some may say it is “premature” to strike and claim the talks are making “progress”. But these are the same old claims we have been hearing for so long.

Cabin crew have voted again and again to strike because they know it is the only way to force bosses to listen to them and stop the attacks.

Unite is the biggest trade union in Britain. It should be throwing its full weight behind the cabin crew. If it throws away the dispute at BA, it will be a black day for trade unionists everywhere.

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Thu 14 Apr 2011, 18:16 BST
Issue No. 2247
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