(originally published in July 2010 but ironically little change)
It is now getting really disappointing as, after the most recent ballot, the Unite union claims another mandate to strike. They claim the cabin crew are behind them but I would question that after looking at the following vote results.
BA has around 13,000 crew of which about 11,000 are with the disputing union (Unite). The number of crew to actually vote was 5,105 (approx 39% of the workforce) and 3,419 wanted to strike. This means the percentage of BA crew voting to strike was a mere 26%. A mandate to strike? I don’t think so. Especially as I hear that because there is a little remaining internal solidarity amongst the crews it was enough for those who no longer wish to strike to not vote at all this time around. Otherwise it would have been a very different result.
One of the saddest things about this is the impact this dispute has had within the various factions amongst the cabin crew. Many of the main strike supporters are well known in BA circles as long time militants and non representative of the main workforce. Separately some non striking crews have had their cars vandalised in the BA secure staff car parks and face great hostility when they try to work. I cannot see the scars of this strike action healing for years to come let alone by the ultimate end of the dispute. They have turned against each other in a very emotional manner.
Meanwhile the union is fighting for its future credibility after making promises of regaining concessions and lost travel perks as the strike intensified. They got it horribly wrong as, from what I can see, BA has drawn a clear line in the sand and said not only ‘no further’ but ‘you will get less’ as the action continues. Whilst this has been going on BA has not only won the support of its investors, many clients and most TMCs but also issued new contracts to non striking staff and started employing a whole new workforce.
So now we have a different kind of ‘impasse’. OK, the current dispute is no nearer resolution and the strikers are still being used as cannon fodder by Unite in it’s increasingly political campaign but meanwhile BA have quietly advanced plans to make the striking crew surplus to requirements. They must be sharpening the axes at H.Q as I write.
Is there going to be a winner in this dispute? Yes there certainly will. BA will finally clean up a significant amount of the industrial mess left by previous executive management and ultimately build foundations that will enable them to compete more effectively with their rivals. But there will be losers too. A union with a bruised ego and a whole lot of crew out there trying to find new jobs only to discover that the pay is not what they have come to expect. Ironic really.