BA strike: against the race to the bottom

by Gregor Gall
Professor of Industrial Relations, University of Hertfordshire

The BA dispute in shaping up to be the key union battle of 2010, being on a par with strikes in the engineering construction industry and Royal Mail last year in terms of their significance for the wider labour movement. This is maybe a little odd in that a relatively small number of workers are involved compared to those in the engineering construction industry and Royal Mail. This is a dispute about accommodating to or resisting the ‘race to the bottom’ under the neo-liberalism.

That said the dispute with BA as a employer and organisation has a significance way beyond the number of staff employed – the profile of the dispute is based on BA still being seen as the national flag carrier despite privatisation and the union being able to benefit from exerting leverage because travel cannot be physically offshored and strike action has an immediate and demonstrable impact upon the business’ operations. Continue reading “BA strike: against the race to the bottom”

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british airways staff voting again on strike action

Today came the news that the Unite union has lost its High Court action to try and overturn British Airways’ attacks on staff. Yet after BA’s court injunction stopping a Christmas strike, a new ballot for action continues, as Gregor Gall reports.

Unite, and its cabin crew branch, BASSA, are currently locked in a truly titanic battle with BA. Unite is reballoting for strike action, with the result due on 22nd February.

The litany of what BA has engaged in to break the cabin crew’s will to resist has got longer and longer. Since the New Year, this has included recruiting strike-breakers from existing employees, threatening to end benefits of strikers and encouraging the establishment of a yellow union, the Professional Cabin Crew Council. Continue reading “british airways staff voting again on strike action”

british airways injunction flies in the face of democracy

by Gregor Gall
professor of industrial relations at the University of Hertfordshire

The High Court decision to grant British Airways an injunction against Unite’s 12-day strike, was as Unite said, “a disgraceful day for democracy”. The will of 92.5% on an 80% turnout of 12,000 workers was struck down in a single moment by a solitary judge.

mass meeting of BA staff: their collective decision was trampled on by the courts

Although employer applications for injunctions are well down on the mid- to late 1980s, in 2009, there were 10 other injunctions applied for by employers, with another 14 in the previous three years to this. Continue reading “british airways injunction flies in the face of democracy”

BA strike: on a wing and a prayer?

by Gregor Gall

It seems like the ultimate kamikaze action: mutually assured destruction. The company you work for is already in a huge amount of trouble, posting a £401m loss last year, a lot more this year, running a massive pension deficit and you decide to press the nuclear button by going on strike for 12 days at the busiest time of the year.

If you wanted to engineer the bankruptcy of your employer, put yourself on the dole early in the New Year and without much in the way of a redundancy deal, this seems to be the perfect way to do it. In a monopoly service this would not necessarily matter but we know passengers will choose another airline in order to get to their destination. And they won’t always come back either.

So the decision by 92% of those who voted “yes” for strike action on an 80% turnout is completely crazy, right? Continue reading “BA strike: on a wing and a prayer?”

british airways strike: a million christmases ruined?

by David Broder

Don’t ruin a million Christmases: BA chief’s appeal as he goes to court to halt strike (Daily Mail, 16th December)

Cartoon in today's Times

The proposed British Airways strike has brought down an avalanche of media attacks on the airline’s employees and the Unite union. Much as propaganda about “old ladies not receiving their Christmas cards” blighted the Royal Mail dispute last month, again the corporate press and the BBC are blaming Scrooge-ish “union barons” for their lack of festive cheer. But does the wintry weather really excuse a two year pay freeze, cuts in crew numbers and 4,900 redundancies? Not so, said a thumping 92% majority of BA workers on an 80% turnout, a ballot result showing both the level of anger and the desire to fight on to a victorious conclusion, given that the action will go on for a whole 12 days beginning on December 22nd. Continue reading “british airways strike: a million christmases ruined?”