Unite has put the brakes on potential industrial action as it enters into new “exploratory” talks with British Airways management.
In late March, workers voted by 83% (on a 72% turnout) to take further strike action in a dispute which has stretched over two years. That most recent ballot gave Unite a mandate to call action by 15 April, but according to a union statement BA bosses have agreed to grant the union a month’s extension while talks take place.
The union has declared that “a lasting peace is essential for the well-being of all cabin crew and for the benefit of British Airways’ customers.” The overly-conciliatory language does not bode well.
Workers are already in a worse position now than when the dispute began, with the latest ballot focusing on attacks suffered during earlier strikes.
Unite says it wants to resolve three key issues, two of which pertain to the attacks and victimisations. The final one calls for “measures to address concerns on earnings and lifestyle associated with the established changes in onboard crew numbers and the introduction of Mixed Fleet.” This implies fairly strongly that the union has now given up on defeating the introduction of the cuts which sparked the initial dispute, seeing them as “established changes” and hoping only for “concerns” to be “addressed”. The union’s statement may leave some cabin crew workers wondering why they’ve been in dispute for two years (and on strike several times) without winning a single crumb (and indeed being markedly worse-off in many cases). There has also been some backsliding in terms of member-control and democracy in the dispute.
The BA cabin crew workers, who have stood resolute under severe attacks from an extremely anti-union management, deserve better than to have their dispute wound up from above in return for some phony “peace talks” with BA bosses.