Alasdair – strikes can only take one form. It’s called walking out.
The SWP mentality that believes that inconvenience could occur at any stroke, is sadly misplaced. There are a number of legal hoops that need to be cleared before any industrial action can occur. True, Unite have a ballot that gives them a mandate for industrial action in this case, but they are required to give the employer (in this case British Airways) seven days notice of any intended industrial action. Moreover, the union is the only party that can call for industrial action. The two branches of Unite involved in this dispute cannot independantly call for action. Any industrial action that is not called for by the union is deemed unofficial and those participating may find themselves in breach of their employment contract and therefore liable to summary dismissal. Moreover, if the branches have called for action without the sanction of Unite, then Unite may find themselves liable to court action for losses sustained by the company as a consequence, hence the rather rapid repudiation letter issued last year when cabin crew were being incited not to close window blinds on aircraft.
It is very unwise to take industrial action without first ensuring that all the legal hurdles have been first cleared. Striking actually serves no useful purpose. Employers lose productivity, revenue, customer goodwill and the employee relations can take a long time to normalise afterwards. There is the risk that strike action can hit cash flow to the extent that the company is in severe financial trouble and could either go bust, be forced into administration, or subject to a hostile takeover. Workers lose pay. They also may lose jobs. If the strike has the effect of reducing revenue, then that may require additional cost savings to be made. In many cases this means downsizing the workforce. If the company goes bust it has even more disastrous effects in that the pension scheme may also get wound up.
You only have to look at the industries that were beset with huge labour issues during the 1960′,70’s and 80’s to see what effect strike action has. The UK once had a flourishing heavy engineering sector, covering shipbuilding, steel and coal mining. It had a sizable mass market automotive industry. Where are they now ?