British Airways strikes: "It's Willie Walsh or us"

Submitted by Matthew on 10 June, 2010 - 9:59 Author: Ira Berkovic

As the British Airways cabin crew workers’ dispute reached an apparent impasse, spirits remained high on picket lines at Heathrow Airport.

After several rounds of strikes, shenanigans in the courts (resulting in the latest round of strikes being declared illegal and then reinstated following an appeal) and a vicious campaign of victimisation from management, the apologetic and defensive attitude many workers displayed at the beginning of the strike seemed to have been replaced with a kind of kamikaze confidence as workers face up to the reality of an all-or-nothing battle with Willie Walsh.

“If Walsh wins, I’m leaving” one striker told Solidarity. “It’s him or us now.”

However, other BASSA activists have told us that they are not certain the workforce as a whole has the confidence to fight an all-out trench war with BA bosses, and that they would probably settle for a management climb-down on the victimisations and a reinstatement of staff travel allowance. That would certainly be a defeat for the workers, meaning the only “gain” of the strike would be the recapturing of things that were lost during the dispute itself.

But if the strike as a whole can take its lead from the spirit of the workers who turned out the picket lines last week (of whom there were, unfortunately, noticeably fewer than at earlier stages within the dispute) then there may be some possibility of exerting sufficient pressure on Walsh to force him to back down on some of his plans, or at least sufficiently expose him as enough of a liability that more moderate elements within BA management move against him.

Certainly, if he wins then the attacks on the cabin crew will be just the beginning. One check-in worker told Solidarity, “we’re all waiting to see what happens with the cabin crew. We could be next. Walsh will try to pick off different sections of BA workers one grade at a time.

“The cabin crew have more of a history of organisation than other workers, so they’re fighting back. If they lose, there’s no telling who Walsh will go after next.”

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