Don’t let BA’s cabin crew fight alone – call a general strike

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British Airways cabin crew will go on strike for three days from 20 March and for four days from 27 March.

The Unite union confirmed it would not strike over Easter, but warned there could be further action after 14 April if a resolution has not been agreed.

Unite made the announcement after protracted, exhaustive and exhausting talks. The union side had bent over backwards to give Walsh what he wanted, but officials had reached the limit of what they could offer and at the same time hang onto their union jobs.

Unite was therefore forced into calling seven strike days.

At the same time, the officials agreed to put the last Walsh offer to a consultative ballot of the cabin crew and volunteered that they would call off the strike action if the ballot result showed that the membership were prepared to accept that offer.

Since there have already been two ballots showing overwhelming support on very large turn-outs for strike action, this was just another effort to try and wriggle out of the strike action, with the bonus being that if the membership were to accept the Walsh offer – or even if there was a close vote – they could call off the action and then blame the ‘irresoluteness’ of the membership for it.

It was Walsh who torpedoed this effort by withdrawing his offer.

Walsh obviously wants to fight and crush the union. The Unite leaders want to run, and are desperately trying to get out of the firing line.

The bosses and the government are with Walsh. Their reasoning is that the crisis is so deep that strong unions are the last thing that they need and that a Walsh victory would set the scene for driving the unions back a century.

At the Unite press conference, its deputy general secretary Len McCluskey made it crystal clear, that it was Walsh who wanted to fight and was determined to drive the biggest and most powerful union in the country out of Heathrow and Gatwick airports, for a start.

McCluskey said: ‘Regrettably, management turned down a remarkable offer from the union which would have given the company everything it said it wanted while also meeting our members’ concerns.’

He added: ‘These have been very difficult negotiations – unnecessarily so, in my view. I represent a workforce which has repeatedly made it clear that it is proud of its company and prepared to make extraordinary sacrifices to see it succeed. The customers they care for have always been at the forefront of their concerns.

‘But we have been faced with a management which at times has almost seemed to want a dispute.

Every time talks appeared to make progress, the chief executive or another senior manager has popped up making public statements designed to inflame the situation. This has led to the view that BA management’s real agenda is destroying trade unionism among its employees.’

What now. Walsh has organised his strikebreakers and will use them from March 20th onwards.

The cabin crew must not be allowed to fight alone since what happens to them will determine the way that unions and trade union members are treated throughout the country.

The way forward is simple. When Walsh uses scabs the whole trade union workforce at Heathrow and Gatwick must stop work.

The BA cabin crew committee must take over the control of the dispute and must demand that the Unite trade union calls out all of its members to defeat the union-busters.

Such is the vital importance of the issue involved that the TUC must give its support to the cabin crew.

Brendan Barber knows that BA is engaged in union-busting. He must call a special meeting of the general council of the TUC and declare a general strike in support of the BA cabin crew. This is the only way forward. Otherwise it is back to the hungry 1930s.