Baa And Virgin Air Industry Workers Are Ready For Action

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NEWS LINE sends its greetings and full support to the British Airports Authority workers who have decided to take strike action at seven major airports to defend their final salary pension schemes.

The British employers have declared war on final salary pensions and up till now with the help of cowardly trade union leaders have been knocking them over like ninepins.

The BAA workers to their credit have refused to fall for the opportunist line that the trade union bureaucracy has been peddling all over the country.

This is that the existing staff should continue with final salary pensions but that all new staff should be on second-class and second-rate pension schemes.

The BAA workers recognise that this arrangement will be the thin end of the wedge going in, with the aim of destabilising the entire final salary scheme, by making it financially unviable, thus creating the conditions for getting rid of it.

As well, the workers recognise the dangers to their existing wages and conditions of the establishment of a two-tier workforce.

This would make trade union unity on vital questions much more difficult and create the conditions for the two-tier arrangement to be expanded to include wages and conditions of service.

TGWU national secretary Brendan Gold announced yesterday that the first 24-hour strike action will be at all seven BAA airports from 6.00 a.m. on January 7th.

A further 24-hour stoppage is scheduled for January 14, with a 48-hour strike due to take place from 6.00 a.m. on January 17.

The BAA workers are not the only sections of the industry that are being forced into struggle by the employers.

There was the recent case of Aer Lingus and its plan to end its use of Shannon Airport and to transfer to Belfast, at inferior rates of pay and conditions of service for pilots.

And there was the decision announced earlier this week by the Unite trade union that cabin crew at Virgin Airlines will be taking strike action after an overwhelming 71 per cent of Unite members took part in the ballot and voted in favour of industrial action.

The action will consist of 48-hour strikes from 0600 hours, Wednesday, January 9th 2008 to 0600 hours, Friday, January 11 2008 and from 0600 hours, Wednesday, January16 2008 to 0600 hours, Friday, January 18 2008.

Virgin cabin crew pay lags behind staff working for British Airways who earn up to £10K more a year flying the same business routes. On holiday routes Virgin cabin crew can also earn considerably less than many of their competitors.

Unite National Officer, Brian Boyd, said: ‘Virgin Atlantic’s cabin crew have voted for strike action for the first time in the airline’s history. . . They are seeking a long term solution to pay which recognises their loyalty and professionalism.

‘Unite is calling on Virgin Atlantic to get back around the negotiating table to get through this impasse and avoid disruption in the New Year.’

These BAA and Virgin strike actions will stop the major British airports for up to 11 days and cause chaos for a much longer period.

The only issue is whether the trade union leaders are up to the job?

As is well known, Brendan Gold played a leading role in the Gate Gourmet sell-out when up to 700 workers were sacked by megaphone. He then followed that up with the sell-out of BA cabin crews after they had voted for strike action to defend their pensions by a massive majority.

It is the trade union bureaucracy that is the weak link in the chain. Workers must be ready to proceed with the strike action, even if the union leaders act to prevent it.

They must be prepared to bring forward a new leadership in the union, to defend all of the gains that the working class has made, and secure these gains by the nationalisation of the air transport industry.