Strike action to defend sacked BA shop stewards

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BRITISH Airways (BA) has sacked a second shop steward who had been charged with organising unofficial secondary strike action at Heathrow on August 11th-12th 2005, in support of the over 700 Gate Gourmet workers who had been locked out and sacked by the management.

Last month another employee was sacked for his part in the unofficial action against BA’s caterer.

Over 1,000 BA workers walked out in sympathy with the Gate Gourmet workers who had been victimised, locked out and sacked by the management in order that the bosses could bring in a new cheap labour workforce on much worse terms and conditions.

The sympathy strike brought BA to its knees, with 900 flights cancelled, it disrupted travel plans for about 100,000 passengers, costing the airline up to £45 million.

With the employers weakening fast, the TGWU leaders came to their rescue and issued written instructions to the striking workers to return to work and end the secondary action.

In fact there is every reason for thinking that BA , hit savagely by rising oil prices, had been encouraging Gate Gourmet to cut its costs and was well aware of the action that Gate Gourmet was about to take.

The new BA chief executive Walsh, fresh from sacking thousands of workers at Aer Lingus condemned the unofficial stoppage and declared that some of BA’s working practices were ‘completely irrelevant’, and that the projected move by BA to Terminal 5 in 2007 would provide the basis for a ‘new start’.

That new start would involve thousands of redundancies and the adoption of BA’s own survival programme.

Walsh predicted from the moment that the shop stewards were faced with diciplinary charges that two of them would be sacked and he has proven to be as good as his word.

In interviews with the capitalist press he has also agreed that the move to Terminal 5 could be described as his ‘Wapping’, referring to the way that Sky boss Rupert Murdoch built a scab plant in Wapping before he sacked 6,000 News International printers in January 1986.

Walsh is hoping that the TGWU leaders will not only do nothing to assist the two sacked workers to win their jobs back, but that they will assist him in negotiating completely new terms and conditions for the workers who are to work in Terminal Five, and redundancies for everybody else.

The way that the TGWU leaders have responded to the Gate Gourmet struggle shows that Walsh knows his trade union leaders.

The TGWU leaders first of all described the Gate Gourmet bosses as ‘gangster capitalists’, and then gave them everything they wanted, from hundreds of redundancies, to a ‘survival plan’ and the adoption of a ‘Compromise Agreement’ that sold out the rights of every worker for a pittance. Walsh hopes that they will do the same for BA.

However the overwhelming majority of Gate Gourmet locked out workers have rejected their sell-out and are demanding that the TGWU make their dispute official.

The BA shop stewards committee must tell the BA bosses that if the two sackings and the suspension are not withdrawn on appeal, they will call indefinite strike action at Heathrow. They must tell the TGWU leaders that this action must be made official. This is the only way to defend the job, wages and conditions of all BA workers and to win a return to work on their old terms and conditions for all Gate Gourmet locked out workers.