British Airways (BA) cabin crew were set for their second round of strikes from Thursday. Their bosses are punishing those who joined the last walkout by denying them work—and pay.
Sam, a Unite union member, told Socialist Worker, “We struck for two days. But those who were down to do a trip for longer than that were marked as taking industrial action for the whole trip.
“People have called in saying they’re willing to work, but they’ve not been paid.”
The dispute is about poverty pay in BA’s “mixed fleet” section. Workers struggling on as little as £12,000 a year are forced to top up their income with allowances from their flights.
BA’s main slogan is “to fly, to serve”. On strikers’ homemade placards it becomes “to fly, to starve”.
Sam said, “Some people were on nine day trips and face losing the whole nine days’ pay.
“That’s about a £400 hit to their salary, plus losing all their allowances.
“BA are trying to get their own back for the industrial action.
“We’re on full time contracts, so we’re looking into whether that’s even legal, but we also need to ramp up the strikes.”
The dispute involves almost 3,000 workers, based at London Heathrow airport but with some pickets and protests at other airports.
They were set to strike on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
All new BA cabin crew have been hired into the mixed fleet, on worse terms than existing staff, since Unite backed down first in a previous dispute in 2010.
Bosses are playing down the union’s ability to resist now. But strikers accuse the company of “covering up” the impact of their action.
Sam said, “They say everything was normal, but we know they had to charter flights and put people up in hotels. They cancelled 48 flights in advance so they didn’t have to cancel them on the day.
“The day after they cancelled a lot more flights, in advance, because of a bit of snow. Normally they don’t cancel flights in advance because of weather, but see how it is on the day.
“They were trying to save face because they were short of crew and had spent so much on undermining the strike.”
The 2010 dispute could have been won. And this one can win. BA’s actions have only added to workers’ anger—and the experience of striking together has boosted their confidence.
Sam said, “There was a larger turnout than we expected, and support has only grown since. Everybody’s really united now.
“And this will be a longer strike that could cause more disruption.
“Of course we don’t want to be in that situation of causing disruption. But it’s the only way we can make the company listen.”