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BA Workers Say: We Won't Pay For Bosses' Recession
THE WORLD economy is rapidly approaching recession. It's not only a response to the tragic events in New York but longer-term problems such as overproduction. Share markets dropped steadily after profits warnings from many companies.
The bosses want the workers to pay for this crisis through job losses and worsening conditions. While US airline executives queue up outside Bush's office demanding aid, many US companies are laying off workers.
In Britain British Airways (BA) are threatening that 5,200 more jobs will go.
A leading GMB steward at Heathrow comments:
"The world economic slowdown tends to hit the airline industry first as business passengers stop travelling. This summer, BA anticipated the world slowdown by announcing 1,800 redundancies, to be found by next March on a voluntary basis. They also said that next year there would be significant reductions.
"They used the New York tragedy as an excuse to accelerate the redundancies, bringing forward their plans from next financial year to now. They hoped to get these changes through when everyone's stunned.
"We've been through the ups and downs of the economic cycle for so long that redundancies are part of the airline industry. However we've had agreements in place now for 50 years that mean no compulsory redundancies.
"Staff would either be redeployed or offered voluntary redundancy or early retirement. British Airways has responded to structural problems in the industry by shrinking its capacity.
"But every job cut, every squeeze on wages, has gone to reduce ticket prices. The airline industry has for ten years cut prices yearly in a price war. If it continued, airline workers would have to pay the company to work and the company pay passengers to fly!
"The overwhelming response to this threat has been to say no. There'll be no tearing up of agreements that have existed 50 years. Compulsory redundancies will be resisted by the whole workforce united,
"Only a few agreements cover the whole workforce and the redeployment agreement is the most important. Every union says that this would be an attack on basic principles.
"But the trade union leaders say the 7,000 jobs don't have to be found until the end of next March so there's still time to beg Labour to help the industry. Most workers, though, want to fight the compulsory redundancies as soon as possible.
"The crisis is proving that transport can't operate on a capitalist basis. When it was nationalised the airline industry worked on almost zero margins. Now you've got consolidation, mergers etc.
"Workers are anxiously looking at the example of Swissair, one of the most prestigious airways, recently taken over by a low-cost, low wage airline which will try to impose cutbacks, wage cuts etc.
"In that situation workers will need to fight for their jobs and conditions."
In The Socialist 28 September 2001: