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Temperature rises at BA
The battle between British Airways management and cabin crew intensified in the last week with a series of provocative moves by management in response to cabin crew re-balloting for strike action.
Management have threatened to downgrade the hotels that cabin crew stay in while working abroad and withdraw travel privileges for those who strike. They have also sent out a call to other BA employees asking them to "volunteer" to cover for striking cabin crew.
Whether BA can actually implement this scabbing operation is questionable. They employ 13,000 cabin crew. BA would have to make up the numbers from other sections of the workforce that are already operating at full capacity and cannot afford to have experienced personnel taken off the job. So for example if large numbers of baggage handlers were to "volunteer" this would inevitably mean delays in baggage being transferred.
Unite, which represents the majority of workers at BA, has accused the company of attempting to scab on a legal strike and has instructed its members not to co-operate. The GMB has also released a clear statement explaining to its members that undermining their colleagues' strike is not in their interest. However the pilots' union Balpa has been more ambivalent. Their general secretary Jim McAulsen has admitted that some of its members have answered the company's call to "volunteer".
Balpa have declared themselves to be neutral in the dispute and have declined to advise their members not to co-operate with BA management.
While the call for "volunteers" may not succeed in avoiding disruption during a stoppage it signals a hardening of management's negotiation stance as talks continue to avert a strike. It will also serve as a useful list of potential scabs in other sections of the workforce should strike action break out there.
In The Socialist 27 January 2010:
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature
Workplace Feature: IT workers in mini strike wave