Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/604/8443
BA management get tough
In the last few weeks the industrial dispute between British Airways cabin crew and management has become increasingly bitter.
A recently released newsletter from the Unite cabin crew branch raises allegations of intimidation and harassment by management of union activists and staff.
These include management ringing staff at home for a 'chat' about how they intend to vote. By itself this would be a serious attack on internal union democracy but far worse skullduggery appears to taking place.
Unite alleges that a shadowy department by the name of 'Asset Protection' has been set up with the express purpose of monitoring union activists with a view to undermining the union. It has set up 'safe call' numbers around the world whose purpose is to encourage staff to inform on each other. Private conversations in bars have resulted in staff receiving threats of disciplinary action over their 'attitude' to the company. Union activists have been threatened with dismissal for distributing material calling for a yes vote.
Unite head office regularly receives threatening legal letters from BA's legal department. This has meant that any written public statement by union reps to the members must be reviewed by a team of union solicitors so as to avoid giving BA an excuse to slap an injunction on the strike ballot.
The Socialist has contacted BA's press office with a number of questions regarding these allegations. So far they have declined to comment.
It seems clear that BA management have very little confidence they can persuade workers to avoid strike action through discussion and negotiation. This is not surprising given thus far they have largely refused to negotiate with the union and instead sought to impose change by diktat.
BA chief executive Willie Walsh may believe these bully boy tactics can resolve this industrial dispute in his favour without cabin crew taking strike action over Christmas. But in 1999, attempts to bully cabin crew by then chief executive Bob Ayling turned a three-day strike into a six-week strike. It ended in total victory for cabin crew and marked the end of Ayling's reign.
A failure by Willie Walsh to impose change may well result in a similar fate for him, which perhaps explains the ferocious nature of the assault on cabin crew.
All eyes will now turn to the next cabin crew branch meeting on 14 December where the result of the ballot will be announced.
In The Socialist 2 December 2009:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Youth fight for jobs
War and occupation
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party election campaign
Marxist analysis: history