Reply To: 83.2% Vote for Industrial Action

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Tete de Cuvee

It is self evident that Unite achieved a majority vote in favour of strike action from those members who voted in the ballot. What is not clear is precisely what Unite intend to do having secured that mandate. It is somewhat telling that the union did not announce strike dates immediately and maybe indicates a lack of confidence on their part. An alternative viewpoint might be that the Unite are waiting for the outcome of any ongoing discussions before pressing the strike button. Whatever the reason, if the union wish to follow through with their campaign of attempting to dissuade customers from flying BA, they need to move quickly to keep their story on the main pages. With everything else going on at the moment, this story has already been relegated to the inside pages and in 24 hours will be chip paper. It doesn’t even feature on the BBC News website front page any longer.

Unite are in the invidious situation of the kid who has been bought a shiny new train set, but someone forgot to provide the batteries. They could call strike dates, but know that
a) the majority of cabin crew would work normally and the BA operation would be hardly disturbed.
b) they would need to advise cabin crew on the legal issues around striking – notably provide guidance on whether such action was protected or not. This in turn could exacerbate the numbers who would ignore any strike call.
c) they would need to consider very carefully their own legal position since they could be laying themselves open to action from BA as they have clearly linked this ballot with the previous dispute.

This episode is reminiscent of the ‘new technology’ disputes in the UK newspaper industry in the late 80s. The BA tactic of having a volunteer workforce capable of operating as cabin crew is remarkably similar to Murdoch’s deal with the EETPU. Net result from that was that the ‘spanish practices’ that had gone on for decades in Fleet Street were swept away and newspaper production was vastly improved. I can see a similar end for the BA crew dispute.

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