Socialist Worker

BA workers call second two-week walkout as bosses play dirty

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2562

BA cabin crew during their protest on Wednesday

BA cabin crew during their protest on Wednesday (Pic: Socialist Worker)


British Airways (BA) cabin crew are halfway through one two-week walkout – and they’ve called another. The Unite union members from BA’s “mixed fleet” are fighting poverty pay.

They walked out last Saturday in a 16-day strike that is set to continue until Sunday of next week.

Yesterday, Wednesday, they announced another 14-day strike to run from Wednesday 19 July to Tuesday 1 August.

One mixed fleet rep told Socialist Worker, “BA management is a ship you can’t sink with one hit—the longer we’re out the harder it hits them.

“When we went out earlier in the year, say going out for four days then back for two, it just wasn’t effective enough. That’s why we’re out for 16 days now.

“The great thing is that we’re all out en masse.”

The average wage of mixed fleet cabin crew is just £16,000 a year. And many end up making ends meet through their flight allowances, which means their income varies from month to month depending on what they fly.

The long-running fight over low pay took on a new dimension after talks with conciliation service Acas.

BA insisted that any deal would include punishment measures – docking bonuses and staff travel concessions from those who struck. The rep said, “It’s perfectly legal to strike. We’re within our rights and we want the bonuses and concessions back.”

One challenge the strikers face is BA’s use of other aircraft to cover the mixed fleet routes. These are both from BA’s other fleets and “wet-leased” from other airlines.

Costs

Over 50 strikers and supporters demonstrated outside Qatar Airlines offices in west London on Wednesday. BA has signed a two-month wet-leasing deal with the firm that strikers say costs several times more than it would to meet their demands.

To really increase the pressure, workers need to find a way to address this strike-breaking method.

The protest coincided with the start of Unite’s legal challenge to the BA-Qatar deal. But even if successful this would leave BA free to find another scab airline.

A more robust challenge would mean trying to spread the action to BA’s other fleets. But going out for longer is having an impact.

“We’ve had reports of planes going out without enough crew, and even of managers having to be brought in to cover for them,” the rep explained.

“That means those managers aren’t doing their jobs on the ground, which creates a backlog. And all the wet-leasing costs BA money.”

Meanwhile more workers have rallied to the strike—including new recruits just starting work at BA.

They deserve the full support of workers and socialists everywhere in their fight to break the grip of low-paying, union-bashing bosses.


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