Socialist Worker

Escalation can break impasse in BA cabin crew battle

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2569

Cabin crew have struck for all but three days in the last two months

Cabin crew have struck for all but three days in the last two months (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Striking British Airways (BA) cabin crew conclude their current wave of strikes this week in a “pause for peace”.

By the time they return to work this Thursday the Unite union members will have struck for 85 days this year. This includes all but three days during July and August.

Their fight against poverty pay is the longest-running strike in British aviation history.

Despite BA bosses’ attempts to downplay its impact, the action has cost them millions and damaged their brand.

The workers are part of BA’s “mixed fleet”—crew hired since 2010 on worse pay and conditions than existing workers.

Their final week of the summer strikes included a trip to Cardiff Pride on Saturday of last week and an open-top bus tour of central London the following day.

But there are unlikely to be any more strikes until late September at the earliest.

The Tories’ anti-union laws now require two weeks’ notice for a walkout to be official.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey wrote to BA boss Alex Cruz that “we have not issued any further notice for strike action” in order “to create a pause for peace” for talks. “Given the nature and length of the dispute I am more than willing to involve myself in any future talks with you,” he added.

Respond 

But Unite has called for talks all along, and there’s no guarantee BA bosses will start to respond when the pause takes the pressure off them.

The cost of strike pay is mounting—although Unite has massive funds—and keeping up momentum isn’t easy.

After two months away from work, many strikers are spending time at their second jobs or with family away from work, or simply leaving BA.

But backing down now could mean the whole fight has been in vain. Only escalating the action has the potential to break the impasse.

Unite could try to mobilise the mass of strikers and their supporters for the biggest strike demonstration in Britain for several years.

More importantly, it could ballot other workers at BA and its base Heathrow Airport, bringing the giant rapidly to its knees.

In numerical terms the strike has been by far the biggest in Britain this year. Its outcome will affect wider groups of workers. Unite must call more action, and offer a bold route to victory.


Pilots plan to halt planes for higher pay

PIlots working for Thomas Cook Airlines plan to walk out on Friday of next week.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) members voted to strike by 91 percent on a turnout of 88 percent.

Their decision follows nearly eight months of negotiations over a pay rise that was due in April.

Thomas Cook bosses offered a 1.5 percent pay rise.

But Balpa is demanding a pay rise that at least matches inflation and catches up with pay rates at other comparable airlines.

The union also wants better travel facilities for pilots.

The action will affect Thomas Cook’s operations in Britain.

The airline has flights out of 11 airports across Britain, with its two largest bases at Manchester and London Gatwick airports.

Talks are taking place at government conciliation service Acas, but Balpa has reported no progress so far.

Brian Strutton, Balpa general secretary, said, “Our members are frustrated that after many months of negotiations we still do not have a decent pay offer on the table.

“They have said loud and clear ‘enough is enough’.”


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