BRITISH Airways has decided to cut 1,700 jobs and introduce a two-year pay freeze for cabin crew. It also intends to discuss wage cuts for BA workers with the Unite trade union.
The job cuts and wage freeze are to be imposed without any agreement with Unite.
The airline has also announced that it will bring in a two tier workforce, with all new starters on a different pension, and on around 50 per cent of the current wages.
BA boss Walsh clearly wants to turn BA into another Ryanair.
Previously BA had urged its staff to work for a month for nothing to help the once nationalised company survive the capitalist crisis, or take unpaid holidays.
The airline said the job cuts would involve 1,000 cabin crew taking voluntary redundancy and a further 3,000 choosing to go part-time, all to take effect from the end of the month.
In the year to the end of March, BA made a loss of £401m – its biggest loss since it was privatised in 1987. All over the world airlines are making massive losses.
Earlier this month, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) increased its forecast for losses across the whole industry to $11bn (£6.9bn).
The Unite union has already warned BA staff that ‘you can rest assured it won’t be the last of the job cuts’, and yesterday afternoon BA trade union representatives were at a meeting to discuss organising a strike ballot.
The changes will reduce the number of cabin crew jobs from 14,000 to 12,300.
The union view is: ‘They are holding a gun to the heads of our members. We will not stand by while they push fewer and fewer people to do more and more work on less pay and turn our premier airline into a low-cost operator.’
BA chief executive Willie Walsh said in a message to staff that he saw ‘little or no evidence’ of any green shoots of economic recovery in the aviation industry. His solution is to make BA workers pay with wage cuts and mass sackings.
An internal company memo said: ‘At the beginning of this year we embarked on the most crucial union discussions in our company’s history. Let’s be under no illusion, if we are to avoid lurching into another crisis, we have to do things differently.
‘Many of you have been keen to get on with it and have already made sacrifices to protect our future.
‘However, talks with the cabin crew union Unite have been very slow and after nine months of consultation and negotiation, we have made little or no progress. So I want everyone in the company to understand what is happening now, and why.’
BA workers have no alternative but to organise strike action to prevent BA mounting a war that will see wages continuously pushed down to subsistence levels and thousands of workers sacked.
They must also fight for the renationalisation of BA, the only policy that can secure jobs in the situation of a deepening world slump and capitalist crisis.
The weak link in the struggle is the Woodley-Simpson leadership of Unite.
They have done nothing to defend the jobs of workers at the GM Luton and Ellesmere Port plants, and are opposed to the nationalisation of industries threatened with mass sackings and closure on the grounds that the Labour government is opposed to it.
There is no reason to think that their conduct at Heathrow will be any different.
Workers at BA must take indefinite strike action to defend their jobs and also form an alliance with GM and other workers to demand and win the nationalisation of crisis-hit industries such as BA and GM.
This is the only way to begin the defence of wages and jobs.