British Airways (BA) cabin crew last week extended their ongoing two-week strike to four weeks. This will bring the total they have walked out since resuming the dispute this month to 44 days.
The Unite union members are part of BA’s “mixed fleet”. That includes all workers hired since 2010 on lower wages and worse conditions than workers who began working for BA earlier.
They are fighting poverty pay, which the union says averages at £16,000 a year. Most are based at London Heathrow airport, with a small presence in Manchester, Glasgow and elsewhere.
Workers protested at tourist attractions in central London and joined the LGBT+ Pride march in Newcastle last Saturday.
London strikers went to Manchester on Tuesday, and strikers from across Britain were set to gather together at Heathrow on Thursday.
On Monday pickets wore yellow in solidarity with members who have been disciplined for wearing yellow pens to work. These are a symbol of the dispute, yet absurdly BA says that having one on display amounts to bullying or harassment.
Bosses have also stooped to docking bonuses from strikers, and offering the money “saved” as a £250 bung to those who don’t strike.
In reality the strike is costing BA millions. It is “wet-leasing” fully crewed planes from other airlines, and stretching workers from other parts of its business in an effort to cover the strikers’ routes.
Extending strikes increases this cost—especially during the summer peak—and steps up the pressure on BA.
Workers who hadn’t previously struck, including new recruits to BA, frequently post to the workers’ page on Facebook saying they are joining the action.
Yet they remain isolated. BA created mixed fleet in an effort to divide its workforce and weaken their resistance after a major dispute in 2009.
The onus is on Unite to overcome that division. To win it must bring other workers—who support the mixed fleet fight and have grievances of their own—onto the battlefield.
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