THE Unite trade union leaders have declared their second ‘Pause for Peace’ in less than a week, in two fiercely fought industrial disputes – just two of the many disputes that are erupting, from the Birmingham and Doncaster binmen to the workers of the Bank of England and PCS government workers facing the sack – as workers rise up for their rights.
Unite, Britain’s largest union, on Tuesday 22 August called on British Airways to use a ‘Pause for Peace’ to enter talks and find a resolution to the long running Mixed Fleet cabin crew dispute over second rate pay and conditions and the victimisation of striking workers.
Writing to Alex Cruz, the boss of BA, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘You will be aware that we have not issued any further notice for strike action which will currently end on 30 August. This is in order to create a “Pause for Peace” so that our respective teams can get around the table with a view to securing a mutually accepted resolution to the current dispute.’
The action involving cabin crew, working on short and long haul flights from Heathrow, has led to the cancellation of flights and BA spending millions on scabbing using ‘wet leasing’ aircraft to cover striking cabin crew.
Unite is also pursuing legal action on behalf of the Mixed Fleet cabin crew who have been victimised for taking strike action in the long-running dispute. Sanctions have included the removal of bonuses worth hundreds of pounds.
Now they are pausing – or suing – for peace in this class war instead of waging it using all of the union’s power. On Friday 18th, a few days before, Unite announced its first ‘Pause for Peace’ to a meeting of striking Serco workers outside the London Hospital, where they were taking action for an increase of 30 pence an hour and where they want to be rid of privateer Serco and be employed by the NHS.
The striking workers have also been calling for national strike action by all Serco workers and for a national demonstration to pave the way for national strike action. This has been rejected by Unite in favour of a ‘Pause for Peace’ with the notorious privateer, to look for a rotten compromise.
The fact that is so sickening in the Mixed Fleet ‘Pause for Peace’ is that the Unite leadership is responsible for the conditions, or lack of them, that the Mixed Fleet workers endure. The Unite leadership agreed to the wages and conditions of the newly Mixed Fleet cabin crew in 2011, and surrendered to a BA offensive that had seen it sack the leader of Bassa (the then BA cabin crew section of Unite), the law courts declaring BA strike actions illegal, and BA demanding job losses, wage and pension cuts, and a two year wage freeze.
Instead of stopping the whole of BA and urging the TUC unions to take action with them in their support, the Unite leaders found a way to satisfy BA, with Unite general secretary Len McCluskey calling it an ‘honourable settlement’ and a ‘victory for common sense’ – it was neither, since it was based on union supported super-exploitation of a new grade of workers that BA recruited.
Under this ‘peace settlement’ the union accepted the existence of a two-tier workforce with new entrants being employed on lower pay and pensions and worse conditions than existing staff – a cost-cutting condition that was at the heart of the dispute when it started in 2009 when BA and its then Chief Executive Willie Walsh first proposed slashing the number of crew on flights and imposing a two-year pay freeze.
The Unite leaders bought peace with the sacrifices that the new entrants were forced to make, sacrifices that allowed BA to have a permanent whip hand. Now, both at Serco and BA, there are pauses for peace as the union leaders work for a peaceful sell-out!
Unite members must reject these pauses for peace, and demand action to win these disputes!
The Unite leadership must be made to call indefinite national strike action at both BA and Serco to win these disputes, and to put down a motion at the TUC Congress on September 11 to call a general strike to end austerity in the UK by bringing down the Tories.