Striking British Airways (BA) cabin crew went on the offensive today, Wednesday, with a surprise protest at the offices of Heathrow Airport Ltd.
After rallying at Hatton Cross Tube station where they often picket, workers took a bus to right under the airport bosses' noses. There they made as much noise as possible, with whistles, vuvuzelas, air horns and the help of several musicians.
Managers looked down nervously from the upstairs windows. One striker went round the car park putting the workers' leaflets into the door handles. “The message is that the onus is now on Heathrow to tell BA to get round the table,” they explained.
The Unite union members were on their 71st strike day this year against poverty pay. They make up BA's “mixed fleet” of workers hired since 2010 on worse conditions than existing crew.
Sarah told Socialist Worker, “Our low pay means I can hardly afford to pay the bills. I moved here from Newcastle to do this job. But with the prices down here I'm left with very little money and had to take out an overdraft."
With profits soaring, BA can easily afford to pay. Sarah said, “They've basically decided to pay as little as possible, and see how low they can get away with. You're just a number to them—I feel more supported by Unite than by BA."
Bosses have spent a fortune on trying to ride out the strike and hide its impact, and have given strikers' confiscated bonuses as an incentive for scabs. But if they hoped this would demoralise workers into giving up, the strikers’ determination has proved them wrong.
“I want to go back to work, but with a fair living wage and without being penalised for taking industrial action,” Ross told Socialist Worker. “We do love our jobs, but we should get a fair income for doing them.”
One veteran of the 2010 BA strike, the defeat of which led to mixed fleet being set up, urged strikers to keep going. He pointed to reports that BA is planning to attack the pensions of its other crews, which could bring them out on strike too and “bring BA to its knees”.
For all the bosses' intransigence, the workers rightly refuse to back down. Jonathon said, “We've come this far, and things aren't going to change if we go back to work now. If everyone sticks to the stance we've taken, we can win.”
Sarah agreed. “I think BA want us to leave, but I don't agree with leaving,” she said. “We haven't gone this far and given up so much for nothing. I'll keep going for as long as it takes."