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From The Socialist newspaper, 9 June 2010

Determined BA cabin crew ready to reballot

Industrial action by BA cabin crew is in the final block of five days. BA chief Willie Walsh may have imagined back in November there would be a quick sprint to victory for management. In reality this dispute has turned into a marathon.

Neil Cafferky

Every strike day produces big crowds at the strike HQ at Bedfont football ground. Day after day the efficient picketing rota system means cabin crew are well placed to outlast management.

Despite BA's much hyped contingency plans, it is clear Walsh has underestimated the determination of cabin crew to defend their union.

Another piece of management hype that has taken a beating during the course of this dispute is the idea that Walsh is a skilled negotiator.

Rather than engage in serious negotiations, Walsh has only ever played three cards: intimidate the workforce into scabbing on cabin crew, blame Bassa (the main cabin crew union branch) for a failure to reach an agreement and run to the courts to overturn democratic strike ballots.

Hopefully an agreement that protects the interests of cabin crew can be reached by the end of the current round of strikes. However given the kamikaze determination of Walsh to destroy the union this seems unlikely. Now that the 12 week window of strike action allowed under the anti-trade union laws is closing, Unite are correct to reballot for further strike action. Judging from discussions on the picket lines, another majority in favour of strike action seems very likely.

The demonstration in support of the strike called by Unite at Heathrow on 9 June is a good initiative and will help to spread support.

Cabin crew have shown time and again that they have the stomach for a protracted battle with management. The reballot will give the crew time to consider ways of shortening this dispute. It is of critical importance to campaign to extend it beyond cabin crew to other parts of the company.

The new conditions Walsh has introduced into any new deal, such as changes to the 1948 Redeployment Agreement and renegotiating trade union facility time are changes that will affect every worker and trade unionist at the company.

A call for no changes to the Redeployment Agreement could be the basis for other sections of the BA workforce to move to 'failure to agree' and begin preparing for strike action.

A good start would be for cabin crew to invite all trade union reps across the company to a meeting to discuss defending terms and conditions and combating intimidation of union activists. In this way workers at BA can present a united front in the face of BA management. There is no contingency plan of Willie Walsh's that can deal with that.

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