One of Britain’s biggest firms is finding out that downtrodden workers eventually kick back. Up to 3,000 “mixed fleet” cabin crew began their second strike against poverty pay at British Airways (BA) today, Thursday.
In their union Unite’s “strike HQ” near London Heathrow airport, workers talked about how making them fly while hungry and tired would put passengers’ safety at risk. Others contrasted BA’s prestigious image with the pot noodles they have to live on.
For Zuleika, the strike is about more than money. “Whatever they do to us they say, ‘you’re mixed fleet so you have to just get on with it’,” she told Socialist Worker. “But that’s not right—we’re human beings, not robots.
“I got really emotional on the first day of the strike, hearing all the cars beeping and seeing people show their support. Everyone was there, looking at the time saying ‘It’s my check-in now and I’m not there’—even people I didn’t expect to strike.
“It was really good because it made me feel I’m not on my own anymore.”
Workers are obliged to live near the airport, but their wages don’t match London rents. An offer of just 6p more an hour added insult to injury, especially alongside big raises for top executives.
Kelly said, “They’ve made things better for themselves, but they’ve left us behind. It’s unfair that they treat us this way, and it’s unfair that they thought we wouldn’t stand up for ourselves.”
She was also angry that new plane models were adding to their workload. “It’s more passengers, more exams and more work—so why isn’t it more pay?” she said.
Shadow chancellor and local MP John McDonnell came to show support, as did Unite leader Len McCluskey.
On the minibus to the picket line workers whooped and cheered. Unite rep and football fan Shereen gleefully led chants adapted from the terraces to fit the dispute.
Workers deeply resent bosses’ acts of “intimidation” and “punishment”.
BA has cut off strikers’ staff travel discount and bonuses, and sends almost daily emails attempting to grind down their confidence.
One warned that wearing a yellow ribbon in support of the strike was “bullying or harassment”. Another claimed that the majority of crew were going in—based on made-up numbers.
Miranda explained, “They count anyone who’s not down to fly today as not striking. I’m off duty today, so they’re basically saying I’ve crossed a picket line when I’m here standing on it.”
Shereen said, “They say we’re not making an impact but it’s just propaganda.
"They’re having to cancel flights, but as long as they do it in advance they can claim they’re flying at 100 percent.”
These strikers’ defiance should inspire workers everywhere.
Sarah said, “It’s not just us. What we’re doing is part of a growing feeling worldwide.
"The middle class is shrinking and things are becoming divided between those at the top and the bottom.
“BA can’t fly aircraft without us—and we’re not going anywhere.”
FIGURE IT OUT
- £8.8 million—pay of BA boss Willie Walsh last year
- £16,000—average pay of mixed fleet cabin crew
- £1.4 billion—profits of BA owners IAG