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Submitted by stuartjordan on Sun, 22/05/2011 - 23:50

Whilst scabbing inevitably weakens any strike, this explanation does not explain why the BA cabin crew's action has been such a dismal failure. In fact, the strike was very strong. It caused BA losses of around £150 million.

The strike failed not primarily for a lack of effective action but rather the union's lack of demands on the substantive issues, i.e. the introduction of a two-tier workforce with Mixed Fleet. The key demand of the dispute was "Please negotiate with us", which is no demand at all. Of course, if you are in an industrial dispute then it will probably end in some negotiations. But it is ridiculous to make the negotiation process the ultimate goal of your strike.

Without raising any specific demands around Mixed Fleet, BA management were able to shift the focus of the dispute from the substantive issues, to the right to strike itself. They launched a campaign of victimisation against all striking workers. The union went into retreat. Mixed Fleet was forgotten about and the dispute became a rearguard action to end the victimisation. In the desperate attempt to to convince the capitalist press that they were not "mindless militants", the union forgot to mention why they were on strike in the first place. After nearly 9 months of negotiations, the union has finally got a deal which has won nothing except to reverse the (probably illegal) victimisations.

Our BASSA activist is right: other workers must learn from the BA dispute. But the lesson is not simply to "stick together". We need to fight for our unions to raise demands around the substantive issues. Without this, the bosses walk all over us.

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