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British Airways in more battles with workforce
BRITISH AIRWAYS (BA) cabin crew have voted overwhelmingly for strike action. 96% of the TGWU members voted to strike on a 80% turnout. The union has announced three days of strike action from 29-31 January, over cuts in their working conditions, particularly issues like sick leave.
If the dispute is not resolved then further strike days have been announced from 5-7 February and 12-14 February.
BA have apparently asked for conciliation service ACAS to get involved, although negotiations were going on as we went to press. The TGWU reps for the cabin crew are adamant that they are going on strike. And the company can't run a service without them. BA chief executive Willie Walsh has admitted the strike would cause "chaos".
When the socialist spoke to BA trade unionists it became clear that the company is not just fighting one battle with its workforce. It is desperately fighting on three fronts - with the TGWU cabin crew, with a large section of the workforce over pensions and with existing Terminal 1 and 4 workers over working arrangements for the new Terminal 5.
"The company is like a person walking along with a carrier bag with a hole in it. They're trying to get home before all the shopping falls out of the bottom," was how one union activist described it.
On pensions, the company is trying to claim that it has held joint negotiations with BALPA the pilots' union, with TGWU, Amicus and the GMB. BALPA, who have obviously done a separate deal with the company, have accepted the proposals.
It's not clear what Amicus has got out of the deal but their national officer has agreed to recommend it. The GMB have always opposed these proposals.
The TGWU has decided to abstain on the pension deal. The cabin crew section of the TGWU wanted to oppose it but it is clear the union is under pressure from the company who may still be threatening to sue it over the Gate Gourmet dispute.
The company has tried to spin the outcome of the pensions negotiating forum. They said it was a huge victory for them and that all the unions had accepted their deal and are going to go ahead and recommend acceptance.
The GMB stewards have been called undemocratic by the company and they've been denied facilities to communicate with their members about the nature of the BA deal.
The company are also trying to get the pension fund trustees to agree to all the changes while the unions are still consulting with their members about whether to accept it or not. They're trying to organise a fait accompli.
On Terminal 5 there are consultative ballots going on for all Terminal 4 and Terminal 1 workers. This involves mostly TGWU and GMB members and small groups of Amicus workers. This is about the proposed working changes for the new terminal. The result will be declared on 28 January, which could open up a new front in the disputes with BA.
The socialist will carry further reports as these issues develop.
In The Socialist 25 January 2007:
War and terrorism
Socialist Party news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis