Socialist Worker

To beat British Airways, Unite needs to stop bosses’ strike-breaking operation

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2562

Striking cabin crew protesting at Qatar Airways last week

Striking cabin crew protesting at Qatar Airways last week (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Striking cabin crew were set to descend on parliament on Wednesday as part of their ongoing fight against poverty pay at British Airways (BA).

The average wage of BA’s “mixed fleet” cabin crew is just £16,000 a year. Many rely on flight allowances, which means their income varies from month to month depending on how many times they fly.

The Unite union members have called a 14-day strike to run from Wednesday 19 July to Tuesday 1 August.

Their current 16-day strike is set to continue until Sunday of next week.

Bosses heaped a new insult on workers last week, announcing that the bonuses they denied to strikers will now be paid to those who scabbed.

“There’s outrage really,” Unite rep Gareth Theobald told Socialist Worker.

“It’s another twist of the propaganda machine. The way they’ve put it is that they’ve ‘made a saving’ by not paying us.

BA strikers hit back at bosses who keep them on poverty pay
BA strikers hit back at bosses who keep them on poverty pay
  Read More

“But they’ve spent millions to break the strike, and to present it as a saving is an outright lie.”

Impact

The strikes have caused dozens of cancellations. But their main impact has been costing BA money as it moves other workers or other planes to cover for them.

This includes “wet-leasing” fully crewed planes from other airlines.

One rep told Socialist Worker, “We’ve had reports of planes going out without enough crew, and even of managers being brought in to cover for them.

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

BA has signed a two-month wet-leasing deal with Qatar Airlines. Strikers say it costs several times more than it would to meet their demands.

Over 50 strikers and supporters demonstrated outside Qatar Airlines’ offices in west London on Wednesday of last week.

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.

And bosses’ snatching bonuses from strikers is a provocation that cannot be allowed to stand. Workers are right to step up their action.

Another union rep added, “BA management is a ship you can’t sink with one hit—the longer we’re out the harder it hits them.

“That’s why we’re out for 16 days now. The great thing is that we’re all out en masse.”


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