THE BRITISH AIRWAYS pilots strike is on for both Monday and Tuesday in an escalating battle over pay. British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) BA members have backed strike action by more than nine to one, on a turnout of 90% of BA’s 4,000 pilots.
This comes a day after Ryanair pilots, also in the BALPA union, announced a further seven days of strikes. The scene is set for a showdown between the airline giants and their pilots.
BALPA, representing the British Airways pilots, said it was prepared to call off the strike if BA would discuss a new proposal outlined in a letter to the airline. BA however refused the invitation to talks and the strike is on.
The two-day strike follows failed negotiations between the union and the airline over a pay offer of 11.5% over three years. Although this works out just under 4% a year, slightly above inflation, it is not acceptable to the pilots as they have suffered years of extremely low pay increases while inflation has rocketed.
Unite and GMB, representing cabin crew and engineers, have however accepted the same offer and in doing so weakened the pilots position.
However, pilots have argued that the pay award should be higher, following recent years of low pay increases and BA’s recent strong financial performance.
BA in no way compensated pilots for the savage cut in wages inflicted on them over the past years, including a two-year pay freeze, introduced by BA in 2010, when the company pleaded that it was going bust in the wake of the 2008 banking crash and had to cut the wages and conditions of pilots, cabin crew and staff in order to survive.
A further day of strike action is scheduled for 27 September.
The Ryanair pilots have already carried out strike action on 22nd and 23rd August 2019.
They launched a new wave of strike action last week with a three-day strike, which began on Monday and is continued until Wednesday.
The next rounds of strikes will be: 18th to 19th September 2019 (48 hours), 21st September 2019 (24 hours), 23rd September (24 hours), 25th September (24 hours), 27th September (24 hours) and 29th September (24 hours).
Ryanair and British Airways are determined to fight it out, they want a showdown with the pilots, to break the BALPA union and impose casual working conditions and pay on pilots.
BA went to the High Court last month in an attempt to rule the strike illegal. The court ruled in favour of the pilots and a legal attack on the fundamental right to strike was thwarted.
British Airways can easily afford to pay the pilots what they demand. Today, on the backs of previous cuts, BA has recovered from its position of financial crisis and provides the largest share of its parent company IAG’s £2.6 billion profit in 2018. In fact the strike will cost the airline up to £40 million a day.
In the 2010 British Airways cabin crew strike, it was revealed that BA was prepared to lose £100 million to destroy the unions and inflict even greater cuts on its workers.
Ryanair are also hell-bent on breaking the BALPA union.
Zero-hours contracts are surprisingly common among pilots who work for low-cost airlines. In some companies, around 70% of pilots are employed in this way. They are paid job-by-job, with no travel allowances, pension or sick pay to cover, easy to call in at the drop of a hat and just as easy to sack.
This is why all unions operating in the airports must come out in support of the pilots strike.
GMB and Unite, who organise baggage handlers and crew and engineers, must immediately reinstate their struggle and take on the airline giants.
The only way forward is to nationalise British Airways, Ryanair and all airline companies so that their workforce can be given the pay and conditions they need and any extra profits can go back into making sure the airline is safe.
To achieve this, the working class must take the power, go forward to a workers government that will expropriate the bosses and bankers, bring in socialism to replace private ownership with workers management.