British Airways (BA) cabin crew are digging in for the next two weeks in their ongoing strike—and underneath bosses' carefully maintained facade of normality their action is taking a toll.
Unite union members in BA's "mixed fleet" have struck for nearly 70 days so far this year against poverty pay. Many workers rely on second jobs, taking home less than £16,000 a year.
At a members' meeting on Thursday they reaffirmed their determination to fight on. Unite rep Gareth Theobald told Socialist Worker, "After a big meeting our stance remains strong.
"BA is under a lot of pressure from staff shortages, and public opinion. We're saying it won't get a resolution to this until it engages in discussion—battening down the hatches isn't going to work."
At a "Solidarity Saturday" event at the Bedfont football club near London Heathrow airport yesterday, Saturday, strikers told Socialist Worker why they are still fighting.
Joe and Amanda have just got married, yet can't afford to move out of the rented home they share with other people.
Joe said, "I always imagined that BA was the best airline in the world so it must be a good employer. But it doesn't value the staff whose work makes all its profit."
Amanda agreed, "They constantly tell us that the reason people fly BA is the reception they get from cabin crew. But then they treat us like we're disposable, like anyone can do our job and we can be replaced just like that."
That arrogance has also informed bosses' response to the strike, doing all they can to suggest it's having no effect.
But they are cancelling flights, flying others without a full crew, and sending other passengers onto other airlines—notably through an expensive "wet-leasing" deal with Qatar Airways.
Laura said, "It is having an effect, otherwise they wouldn't be paying Qatar, they wouldn't keep switching flights around and they wouldn't need 'incentives' to get people into work.
"You should see the emails they send to the people who are still going into work—always apologising for the disruption to their rosters. It's all because of the strike."
The workers have had gestures of support from wide sections of the labour movement. Unite Community activists came to join the solidarity day. The European Transport Federation sent an angry letter to BA last week, and 33 MPs have signed an early day motion.
Some workers have joined the strike as it's gone on, moved by the action of their colleagues. Lais said, "At first I was afraid, and didn't think I could afford to strike.
"But I saw that things weren't going to change any other way. So I had to join the struggle rather than wait for it to get sorted without me."
"I wish more people would get involved. It might be hard, but be brave—if you're not happy with the way things are, take charge and do something about it."