BA cabin crew set to back new strikesBack to Forum
Anonymous10 Jan 2011
Even if the strike goes ahead, it won’t have much effect on BA’s Operations:
I think that Unite/BASSA will claim very strong support for this strike ballot. And indeed I expect a good majority of BASSA members to support the action.
That is because many moderate crew have left BASSA, and BASSA rarely quotes the proportion of total cabin crew who support IA, just the proportion of their membership.
But it won’t be a majority of BA cabin crew. And BA cabin crew themselves have a habit of voting one way, and then not backing up that vote by striking.
Before it gets to a strike, there are several hurdles to be overcome:
1. The issue of whether the ballot has been properly conducted; anecdotally many non-union members have been sent, and returned, ballot papers. That could invalidate the vote.
2. Is the ballot protected action; if it is not (and there are many reasons why this action can be said to be related to the original action) then BA cabin crew who withdraw their labour are at risk of being terminated (as are all those who strike, even when “protected”)
3. Will Unite be able to bear the high cost of any potential legal action to recover costs to compensate for any illegal action?
Personally, I have several BA flights booked over the next couple of months, and I am not concerned about the impact strike action may have.
There is plenty of contingency now, such that all longhaul flights from LHR will aim to be operated, most shorthaul flights will operate (at least one service per day) and all Gatwick and London City flights will operate.
Domestic flights are most at risk, but they are usually the most discretionary trips, are easily rescheduled and there is a range of train/alternative airlines who can take the strain.10 Jan 2011
Here is an account from Duncan Holley of today’s BASSA meeting. CC89 held their own separate meeting.
Just a quick report back from your ever-loving Branch Secretary on today’s
meeting at Kempton. Incidentally someone I know who still talks to BA has
been told by them that they think I am completely mad, and I would hate to
convince them otherwise, so forgive my rambles!!
Firstly can I say that I felt that today was one of the best meetings we
have ever had. Not only was it brilliantly attended but everyone there
generated a real positive vibe. Of course, the tone was set by a really
rousing speech by the new General Secretary, Len McCluskey who truly
caught the mood and resolved a lot of the outstanding issues. More of that
later but first he told the meeting how this dispute was like no other he
had experienced, and how, in his opinion, Walsh has never wanted peace.
“Never mind the BA brand” he said, “this is all about the Willie Walsh
brand – the actions of a mad man”. That predictably drew a large roar of
agreement as did the sight of Nicky Marcus on the top table wearing the
now infamous Willie Walsh Y fronts.
Len then undertook to be 100% hands on and pledged to be totally behind
getting the deal or outcome the membership wanted.
He then said he would authorise the Unite legal dept to co-operate with
Crew Defence lawyers! That too earned a loud cheer but not as loud at the
cheer that went up when he said he had already written to the General
Secretary of BALPA to ask that BALPA members immediately refrain from
strike breaking, adding that if it continued, he would be requesting
their expulsion from the TUC. Kempton Park roof nearly blew off and the
statue of Desert Orchid even joined in the ovation. If only those
misguided pilots could have heard the commotion and the anger, perhaps
some of them might have second thoughts.
There were some questions from the floor surrounding the legal issues –
which Len addressed – but he said the industrial route was the one more
likely to succeed due to the current industrial laws of the land being
heavily biased in favour of the employer these days. However all legal
steps are judged on their merit and the ones that have already been lodged
will continue until the membership agree otherwise. It was not therefore
wise to rely on the courts settling this dispute.
Len also admitted that Unite PR had not been slick enough and there needed
to be a more high profile strategy and improvements made. Understandably
there was not much argument against this.
Following another question from the floor Len pledged in future reps would
be included in talks with the company.
Len was asked whether Willie Walsh moving upstairs would mean a more
conciliatory attitude from BA. Len said he hoped so but Walsh has already
signalled an intention to remain involved in the dispute so we will have
to wait and see but, whatever, there will have to a negotiated settlement
and BA have to accept this. It is now evident all along that Walsh has
only ever been interested in bringing BASSA to its knees and even early on
a deal everyone could have lived with, was there but Walsh chose to move
Len wound up by saying he was amazed at how strong we all were and how
impressed he is with the resolve and unity. He asked that the members
“continue to believe in themselves and in their committee” and that
“justice will prevail”. He understood the nature of the job and how it is
hard to present a unified face but somehow we had done just that.
Speaking personally now I thought his presence today was incredibly
uplifting and reassuring and that the words he spoke are overdue but
nevertheless very welcome. I think most at the meeting agreed. Shubha
(Unite Legal) then gave an update to where we are with all the legal cases
so far which again many told me afterwards was very helpful. It is good
that we had someone there from Unite Legal dept in person as they do have
the final word and I think Shubha will come away today suitably impressed
not only by the passion and determination, but also the intelligence of
After Len left the BASSA committee answered questions many of which
centred around BA doing away with all our agreements and what to do if
faced with BA trying to force you to break an agreement. It was stressed
this is an individual decision but a CSD present nearly brought the house
down when she said she would be sticking to her agreement no matter what
and would expect her crew to “stick” by her. Everyone agreed we were in
uncharted waters and BA were circling like dishonourable sharks but at the
end of the day “an agreement is an agreement”.
An ex-crew member then addressed the meeting giving details of an
alternate staff travel scheme he had initiated to help with those who no
longer have BA staff travel rights. There is a website and details will be
The organisers of Santas crew then spoke, thanking all those who had
donated and announcing that the appeal would keep going. Both speakers
were warmly applauded.
Finally Sean Beatty and Lizanne Malone asked for the Branches’ approval to
be nominated for the forthcoming GEC elections. Sean said it was
imperative a team be elected to give Len full support and when the time
came the 6 people to vote for would be Beatty, Malone, Parsons, Holmes,
Murphy and Kwasi. (We will be posting an article on this nearer the time).
So all in all a very good meeting. Everyone I spoke to enthused about it
and there really was an incredible atmosphere of togetherness today.
Finally Nicky Marcus said a few words of thanks and also how proud she was
to represent you all. She was quite rightly given a standing ovation and
it was all very emotional, to be frank. When you stand shoulder to
shoulder at events like this there is an overwhelming sense of doing
what’s right and also a great feeling of togetherness. We might all be
from very varied backgrounds etc but today over a thousand people spoke as
one and were united by a determination to resist the biggest bully in BA history to the end – whatever that takes!
Now before BA have me sectioned I will end by saying thanks to all those who turned up and a big thank you to those who continue to keep the faith.
Forgive the grammar in this – it has been written after a long day but I
want to post it asap for all those down route. Safe flying. Duncan10 Jan 2011
VK, any idea of when the strikes, if any, will take place. As with last year’s disruption, some of my trips I need to have certainty of making, and ended up flying other carriers to avoid any problems. I am booked for EZE in February, and then planning a number of trips within Europe and to/from Florida in March and April? Thanks in advance for your advice.11 Jan 2011
Can only be conjecture about dates as strike not set in stone yet.
Bit of scaremongering going on eg February half term and Easter/Royal Wedding etc – dont think the Tower of London would be big enough if the later !11 Jan 2011
The London Evening Standard is reporting that after 5 years of attempting to get the London Fire Brigade to negotiate shift changes they are now preparing to sack all 5,500 firefighters and re-employ them on new terms and conditions. I strongly suspect BA will be planning something similar and everyone will be employed on a mixed fleet contract. BASSA should not kid themselves, there are thousands of people out there who would love the change to get a job with BA, even with the reduced salary and benefits.11 Jan 2011
Spot on DerekHodgson.
Mixed Fleet wasn’t even on the table before this dispute began; BASSA had an opportunity to negotiate (with some compromise) an agreement for all crew which would have been better than the current non-Mixed Fleet offer (which offers a pay increase over current base, and does not fundamentally vary T&Cs). Here is the current offer, which is not exactly punitive:
Sadly for their cabin crew membership, BASSA refused to negotiate and didn’t put the several subsequent offers made by BA, including this latest offer, to cabin crew for a democratic vote.
With the vote concluding on 21 January, the day Willie Walsh becomes CEO of IAG, I would imagine Unite will want to get a result out quickly.
It will I think be a vote for a strike, but those voting to strike are unlikely to number a majority of all BA cabin crew.
The threat of unprotected action means many cabin crew could lose their jobs for striking. It is an especially expensive time of year post-Christmas, so many will not want to forgo pay. I would anticipate even fewer of those who voted for strike action will actually exercise that choice by not turning up for work, as was the case last time round.
BASSA has to give 7 days notice so the earliest they could take action would be about 28 January.
Any further dates would be pure speculation; I think they have learned that impacting families at Easter does nothing for their cause (whatever that is) so I would suggest a rolling series of two day strikes over the coming weeks.
This all presupposes that BA doesn’t get the ballot declared illegal for including many non-BASSA members in the ballot (there are several examples of such individuals being mailed ballot forms and voting in this ballot) and there is also the issue of whether this is a “new” strike or an extension of the old strike for which BA might be able to sue BASSA/Unite for costs and damages, which would cause the strike to be called off.
I would expect BA to have a very strong contingency, with all Gatwick and City flights operating normally, all Heathrow longhaul flights operating, and most European shorthaul flights operating (At a minimum one service per day). The sort of reduced service you might see in an afternoon of heavy winds rather than anything like the disruption seen previously.
Domestics are high risk, but these are easily covered using the train or other domestic carriers.
I have as ever a number of flights booked over the coming three months, mostly longhaul, and will not be changing any of them in light of this ballot regardless of the result.
This action just won’t have much effect on BA’s operations.11 Jan 2011
whilst I understand your sentiment DerekHodgson, this would certainly be unfair and a slap in the face for those Crew who have supported BA during last years Industrial Action and will do so again. I believe they were already offered new Terms and Conditions and just to sack them too amongst those who continue to strike would be very unfair on them. I believe many of those who backed BA are fearing this scenario may happen, whilst those behind BASSA seem to bury their head in the sand, convinced they will win this “fight” and the 90 day notice would never happen to them.Just a personal thought11 Jan 2011
British Airways is legally prohibited from discriminating in favour of those crew who supported the company as volunteer crew and in other ways.
That does not mean those crew are not appreciated, or that when legal to do so that loyalty will not be rewarded appropriately.
It is very unlikely that BA would approach this with such a broad brush; a much more selective approach is called for, but at the same time any approach must be fully transparent and at all times remain within the law.
BA has put the existing offer (referenced above) to those crew who are not BASSA members which broadly preserves existing T&Cs and provides for a pay RISE. BA is legally prohibited from offering it direct to BASSA members, and BASSA itself has refused to put this offer to its membership.
I have no doubt that an “unprotected” strike will make it easier for BA to address the issue of crew who are discontented with their current employer once and for all.11 Jan 2011
VK : “I have no doubt that a strike will make it easier for BA to address the issue of crew who are discontented with their current employer once and for all”.
Lets hope so and maybe it is time to move on from there, fresh start springs to mind but it needs to be done in my opinion.11 Jan 2011
I personally don’t believe BA will go down the 90 day notice route. I do believe the company wants to see a genuine, clean and negotiated settlement. BA could have enacted a 90 day notice period 18 months ago .
In spite of all the rhetoric about BA management it has been very patient. However, there now seems to be no willingness on the part of BASSA to settle with its ever changing set of demands, its complete of negotiating acumen and attempt to give the dispute renewed impetus by claiming it’s now all about union busting.
As regards strike dates, the timing of the ballot anouncement and result is evidently timed to overshadow the Iberia merger. So I would expect Unite will not waste any time in calling strike dates. I also suspect they will call a long strike to test the company’s contingency plans.
BASSA may regard this all as being very symbolic to mark Willie Walsh’s departure from BA to IAG.
It may well be very symbolic. But not for reasons BASSA and its supporters would wish for.
The next few weeks will certainly be interesting!11 Jan 2011
I concur with that assessment, Hippo, and I don’t think 90 day notice would be either prudent or morally acceptable.
Summary dismissal for breach of contract on the other hand should be countenanced by BA. Sad for the very many possibly moderate but nonetheless poorly informed crew who will put themselves in the firing line.
And I agree absolutely with your point about the date being “symbolic but not for the reasons BASSA would wish for”. Very much agree.11 Jan 2011