BASSA/Unite Latest Ballot: Just 43% of BA Cabin Crew Support ActionBack to Forum
Anonymous22 Jan 2011
Really disappointing result for BASSA, the cabin crew branch of Unite, with their worst ballot result ever in this dispute.
Support for strike action amongst ALL British Airways cabin crew (the true measure) has dropped below 50% for the first time.
Thankfully, in the unlikely event of this ballot actually ending up in a strike, Unite must give at least seven days notice of Industrial Action.
In the event of a strike, normal schedule will operate at both London City and London Gatwick. BA has stated that should a strike be called, it aims to fly a normal longhaul schedule at Heathrow, and a substantial proportion of the shorthaul schedule as well:
Since this dispute began, BASSA has suffered a 20% reduction in membership. From a high of nearly 13,000 in 2008, they’re down at least 2,500 to just over 10,000, assuming BASSA’s own figures are accurate (!).
With BASSA members resorting to the use of Nazi imagery, it’s not surprising wavering members are put off:
And again a BASSA propaganda sheet littered with references paralleling this “struggle” to the Holocaust:
The use of children is unpleasant enough:
….but the decision by BASSA members to wear yellow and align the deaths of crew and passengers in the Manchester Air Disaster with those cabin crew “lost” as a consequence of (union sanctioned) disciplinaries which have resulted in their dismissal (for things such as dousing crew rest bunks with milk) is similarly abhorrent:
In previous strikes, only 4,900 crew of the 7,482 crew who voted to strike went on strike and of those 4,900, 600 returned to work as support reduced the longer action persisted. That’s about two thirds of those voting for a strike actually striking, so the hardcore of 3,800 out of 13,500 crew could potentially withdraw its labour this time round.
This sounds quite a high number, until one understands the very high numbers of part time crew BA uses, the fact that the most militant crew are often senior and longer serving longhaul only Cabin Service Directors (CSDs) only one of which is needed per flight.
Couple this with the fact that BA is overstaffed at present due to fleet reduction, and the growing numbers of fully trained Mixed Fleet crews, it is clear that BA is able to cover at least 2,000 striking crew from full time regular existing non-unionised cabin crew. This in itself will neutralise much of the strike action, with additional support from fully trained, CAA certified Volunteer Cabin Crew (VCC).
Some of these VCC are members of Unite or other Unions, many of whom will have been former cabin crew prior to taking desk jobs at BA and are fed up with the damage BASSA is attempting to inflict on the company that pays their wages and will support them in retirement).
Here is the actual result of the latest ballot, held 21 January 2011.
Unite balloted 10,220 cabin crew. They voted as follows on the question “are you prepared to take part in strike action”:
Number of ballot papers returned = 7,335
Number of ballot papers found to be invalid = 5
Total number of papers counted = 7,330
Number voting YES = 5,751 (78.5% of valid vote) [but just 43% of ALL cabin crew]
Number voting NO = 1,579 (21.5%) [plus those not in the union = 57%]
There is a clear narrative of reduced support for both BASSA and its destructive refusal to negotiate with BA:
In the first ballot 12,780 papers were issued and 9,514 crew voted to strike.
In the second ballot 11,691 papers were issued and 7,482 crew voted to strike.
In this ballot 10,220 ballot papers were issued and 5,751 crew voted to strike.
Of the 13,500 crew, only 43%voted in favour of strike action in this ballot, and after the usual people who vote for action but take none are accounted for, the numbers should fall well under the 5,751.
Since the start of the dispute the Yes vote has declined by some 3,763.
There have been calls for “different types of action” suggesting some sort of “work to rule”, but this is more BASSA bluster, as secondary action is illegal. Some may try to be “off sick” but full, documented evidence is required to make this option legal. When BASSA leadership suggested its members should not close window blinds, this was robustly slapped down by the lead union, Unite:
BASSA must also give at least seven days notice to strike.
All this when a perfectly good offer, including a guarantee of a pay RISE and the protection of existing T&Cs has been available, and agreed by Unite itself, for over three months:
BASSA’s policy of “no negotiation” and BASSA’s refusal/inability to meet with BA can be evidenced in the chronology presented to the Courts by clicking:
For those in the dark about what this dispute is all about, these appear to be the demands which would need to be met for BASSA to even start negotiations:
1. an immediate restoration of staff travel concessions, in full, to the crew from whom they were taken by BA
2. binding arbitration, through ACAS, of all cabin crew disciplinary cases related to the dispute
3. restoration of the wages docked from crew who were genuinely off sick during strike dates
4. full and proper discussion of the trade union facilities agreement at the company with the immediate removal of all threats and sanctions made by BA in relation to this.
An example of the sorts of activities for which BASSA members have been sacked include pouring milk over crew rest areas, just prior to the operation of a longhaul flight crewed by fellow Unite Volunteer Crew members:
Thankfully, BA’s new CEO Keith Williams has literally months of contingency planning behind him to ensure BA keeps flying; he will continue the previous robust policy and ensure that Britain’s flag carrier will not return to a 1970s style of industrial relations, and that this highly political strike will demonstrate only that such dinosaur tactics are both ineffective and have no place in modern industrial relations.
“Strikers are deluded if they think they can win”. And that’s not my opinion, that’s the opinion of Derek Simpson, Unite General Secretary:
In the most recent strike, BA operated ALL flights from London City, London Gatwick and 80% of the longhaul schedule from Heathrow.
With reduced support among cabin crew, there is no reason to expect that this time, strikes would have a greater impact, especially if they prove to be “unprotected”.22 Jan 2011
In the interests of balance, it should be recognised that
– 5,700 voting for strike action is a substantial amount of people, in company with about 35,500 employees
– those who voted for a strike represent abot 16% of the total workforce
– 78% of those eligible to vote is a very strong result
– a turnout of 75% is clearly legitimate and after a year is a high turnout – what was the % for the last UK general election?
I am anti BASSA and anti strike, but to get this result after a year of dispute informs us that there are very strong emotions involved and I disagree with the comment that it is disappointing for BASSA, since this fails to take into account the timeline.
Most industrial action would have collapsed after much less than a year.22 Jan 2011
My emotions will be very high if my flight home is delayed and I miss my holiday (first in 2 years) with my family. This is very personal.
I am happy to fly on a BA flight with no food, no drink. I could do with losing the weight frankly. No worse than Ryanair!22 Jan 2011
I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you and all the mood music is that BA will run a good schedule, so you should be okay to take that well deserved break.22 Jan 2011
VK, as tireless an ambassador to BA you are missing the point somewhat. Nearly 6000 employees, individuals, are disgruntled enough with their management to actually strike. Nearly 3000 did not return their ballot which indicates they are indeed union members and could decide to take action either way. And after a year of this ongoing saga only 1500 were fed up enough to say no to actual strike action.
Why would BA be happy with such huge numbers of unhappy workers which news of their grief is now damaging the brand on a worldwide basis. Or don’t they care any more about the British Airline now it has gone international? You would indeed be the one to inform us of this.
I just had a look at the new proposal to Crew you included above. Quite frankly, it is laughable. It is stated there will be a “firm commitment from British Airways in respect to their terms of employment.” A firm commitment.. what is firm with BA these days? Also, that they “Honour current and future agreements.” Well, this the need for this was dismissed in the courts, so why should Crew believe this?
There is too much pride and macho management within BA, why, for the sake of all us travelling public don’t they just let all contracts fly together and negotiate?22 Jan 2011
It is interesting to note that in its official strike communique, Unite mentions “Mixed Fleet” as having contributed to the Strike Ballot:
This is interesting from two angles.
1) It demonstrates that members of Mixed Fleet have joined Unite (and good for them, they above all should look to have Union representation)
2) Mixed Fleet is, however, not covered by either BASSA or a collective bargaining agreement, which does cast some doubt as to whether these individuals were legally entitled to vote. They certainly are not Protected should they decide to withdraw their labour.
One for BA’s Legal Eagles to ponder over the weekend, no doubt.22 Jan 2011
Have you considered that some existing cabin crew may have transferred to mixed fleet?
In other words, they may not have joined, they made be existing members.22 Jan 2011
I think you’re spot on, these are Unite members who have transferred onto Mixed Fleet.
Which puts paid to the allegations made on here that BA Mixed Fleet contracts would not permit membership of a Union – and nor should they.
The issue is more about whether these particular crew are actually covered by the collective bargaining agreement. My understanding is that they are not, and so I am not certain if they should have been sent Ballot papers in the first place. Don’t know the answer to that.
The second and more serious issue is whether, notwithstanding all the other issues which may make any strike action “unprotected”, these MF cabin crew (or more likely CSMs) are aware that as they are not covered as part of the current collective bargaining agreement, the are not protected from dismissal if they withdraw their labour.
I think many people feel as you do, Tim2sms.
People with family holidays booked, weddings and other family events committed to will be concerned by this destructive path forged by BASSA.
However, a little pain in the short term to address these industrial issues is better than having this threat of IA continually hanging over the airline.
I am actually very pleased that the minority of crew who still are not satisfied have voiced their disquiet and might possibly have an opportunity to demonstrate their dissatisfaction publicly. It will help vent a good deal of pent up angst, and also identify those who no longer have confidence in the direction in which BA is moving as regards its cost base.
The full history of the falling support (in both actual and relative terms) can be seen below:22 Jan 2011
VK – why would Mixed fleet support a strike – I thought that they were meant to all be happy and would if anything operate additional flights to cover any premium routes on strike (i.e. LAX and JFK for example). I did not realise that they were anything to do with the strikes as surely the debated issues are not relevant for them?
I do know from my Vegas flight that several mixed fleet had previously been on fixed contracts and thus had to join mixed fleet. However if they signed a new contract, I do not think this justifies them supporting and voting for this strike?22 Jan 2011
Unlike the typically mendacious statistics set out in other threads, my stats are accurate, referenced and linked to.
I am also happy that they should be challenged if inaccurate, as I have no axe to grind being an independent bystander to all this.
Mixed Fleet do not support this strike, and are not covered by any BASSA Collective bargaining agreement.
Don’t really understand why they were included in the memo, possibly some underhand way of claiming bargaining rights on Mixed Fleet’s behalf, but BASSA certainly have no mandate or authority to represent Mixed Fleet, though of course it is in everyone’s interest that Mixed Fleet has some sort of pragmatic, business minded collective representation at some stage.22 Jan 2011