The working class has the power – now is the time to use it!


BRITISH Airways’ chief executive Walsh and Unite union joint leader Tony Woodley yesterday met at the TUC headquarters.

The talks are now back on and continuing.

It is crystal clear that what has brought ‘Rambo’ Walsh back to the table is the worldwide movement of workers prepared to stop BA flying.

It is the solidarity actions that are to be taken by the French and Portuguese pilots, and the other support actions that have been pledged by the US Teamsters, the Australian TWA, and the German Verdi trade union, that have brought Walsh down to earth.

The strike action by the cabin crew now has the full support of workers all over the world, and any attempt to break their strikes will see BA grounded worldwide.

This is what has brought Walsh scurrying back to the table.

The working class clearly has the power. What it lacks, and what it must have, is the leadership that is prepared to use that power to defend the very real interests of the working class in the most decisive fashion.

Even yesterday, after the first round of the new talks, the Unite co-leader was still repeating his surrender offer line.

This is that if Walsh retables his original offer or an improved version of it, Unite will call off (postpone) the strikes and put the offer to ballot.

This is the offer that has already been rejected in two massively supported ballots, with huge majorities in favour of strike action to oppose the imposition of terms and conditions of service that were, and remain, unacceptable.

Even with the workers of the world behind him Woodley is unable to rise off his knees and fight for what his members voted for.

If the Walsh offer is retabled, the cancellation of the strike actions will mean that the strike movement is over (the membership can hardly be asked to ballot in favour of strike action for the third time, and go through the whole charade yet again of the leadership refusing to call it).

The reality is that any trade union leadership that faces the likes of Walsh will have at the least to show a similar level of bellicosity and determination to win the struggle.

Such a leadership will use the international and national support to plan a campaign of strike actions to defeat Walsh and drive him back.

Such a leadership will also demand that in the event of a BA share crash the airline be renationalised and be put under workers control.

Woodley and Simpson are incapable of such leadership, especially in the light of their slavish support for the Brown government, which has done its best to rescue the bankers and the bosses from the capitalist crisis, and which is demanding that the working class pays the full rescue bill with interest.

The BA cabin crew and the different regions and trade groups of the Unite union must demand no surrender from Woodley and McCluskey. They must be told that they must demand Walsh withdraws his programme of cuts, and halts all disciplinary actions that are being taken against cabin crew members.

The essence of the situation is that the power of the working class must be used to win this struggle.

Since Walsh will not withdraw his cuts programme and disciplinary actions, the strikes must go ahead. The whole of the union must be called out on the first occasion that strikebreakers are used against the cabin crew, and the TUC must be made to call a general strike.

What is at stake is the right to work protected by negotiated agreements, and the right to strike when a boss seeks to be a dictator and impose new terms and conditions of service on staff.

The worldwide support for the BA cabin crew shows that the working class has the power to win the struggle.

A leadership must come forward in Unite determined to use that strength and to go forward to a workers government.