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Talks resume at British Airways
Negotiations between BA management and Unite cabin crew representatives resumed on 2 August and are continuing at the time of writing.
These are negotiations that the arrogant Willie Walsh was not expecting to have, as he seemed confident of pushing through a shoddy deal. This was decisively rejected by 67%, in a ballot of Unite members.
Greg Maughan, Socialist Party Industrial Department
That a solid majority were willing to vote to reject this deal, after 22 days of strike action and without a clear recommendation from the national leadership of Unite, shows the determination of cabin crew to see this struggle through to a successful conclusion.
It also shows the deep-seated anger at Walsh's bullying, ultimatumist managing style.
The deal offered gave no commitments on the issues that triggered the dispute and included linking travel allowances to a 'no-strike' clause.
The Socialist Party was clear in calling for a 'No' vote on this deal; this was also the attitude of the majority of cabin crew.
But in another provocative move, Willie Walsh has proceeded to roll out the rejected offer amongst the 10% of cabin crew who are non-unionised.
This is a further attempt to divide cabin crew and undermine the union's collective bargaining agreement, which has been key in winning the pay and conditions that cabin crew have attained over the years.
Much has been made in the press of BA's financial situation, with first quarter losses of £164 million, due to a combination of the impact of the Icelandic volcano, strike action and the state of the wider economy.
Walsh has attempted to paint strikers as 'turkeys voting for Christmas'. In reality, his hard-man posturing is costing BA millions.
Unite estimates it would cost £10 million to settle the dispute, a mere fraction of what the union estimates BA has lost so far as a direct result of members' action.
Yet Walsh has gone into the current round of negotiations insisting that the deal which has just been rejected lays the basis for a resolution of the dispute!
There is nothing wrong with negotiating, but some cabin crew will be concerned that talks which do not seem to promise much are delaying a further strike ballot.
Socialist Party members in Unite feel that a fresh strike ballot should be called now and take place whilst negotiations are on-going.
The threat of further action would help exert pressure on Walsh during talks. It would also stop management from using negotiations which lead nowhere to attempt to scupper the momentum of the dispute.
Elsewhere in the aviation industry, 6,185 Unite members organised in BAA, including security staff, engineers, firefighters and support staff, are currently balloting for strike action over pay.
This ballot closes on 12 August. Action here would affect flights at Heathrow, Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.
It seems common sense that if further strike action amongst cabin crew was coordinated with this, then the impact of both strikes would be increased.
At the same time, the attacks that cabin crew face are specifically designed to break the strongest and most densely unionised section of the BA workforce in preparation for rolling out attacks across the company.
Socialist Party members in Unite, the GMB and other unions organised at BA feel that while negotiations between cabin crew and BA management continue, hopefully alongside a fresh strike ballot, the leadership of BASSA (Unite's BA cabin crew branch) should use their fighting authority to call a cross-union meeting and begin to practically discuss how action can be coordinated throughout the BA unions.
We feel that coordinating action, including strike action, is the best way to bring a resolution to the cabin crew dispute and protect other sections of the BA workforce from further attack.
In The Socialist 4 August 2010:
War and occupation
Workplace news and analysis
Youth fight for jobs
Environment and socialism
Socialist Party LGBT
Socialist Party events
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Review & Comment