THE SUDDEN announcement on Monday that the boss of British Airways, Alex Cruz, was being sacked was greeted by the Unite union leaders as a great opportunity to ‘begin a new chapter of constructive relations with staff and the unions’.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett welcomed Cruz’s sacking saying that his handling ‘of industrial relations through this crisis has been unnecessarily confrontational and at times heartless.’
Beckett added: ‘We hope the incoming chief executive will begin a new chapter of constructive relations with staff and unions, repair the reputation of the airline and boost the morale of staff.’
Cruz’s replacement is Sean Doyle who ran the Irish airline Aer Lingus – also owned by IAG. During the pandemic Doyle carried out identical attacks on the airline’s workforce with pay cuts of 70% along with major cuts in conditions.
In September, Irish politicians blasted Doyle after it emerged that Aer Lingus had refused to sign welfare forms that would enable workers who’d had their pay and hours cut from claiming income support for the days they were laid off.
They called on Doyle to appear before a Dail committee to explain his ‘open contempt’ for the Aer Lingus workers. Doyle, far from ushering in a new regime of industrial harmony, in fact represents preparations for even bigger attacks on BA’s workforce than Cruz imposed.
Although Cruz may have been the author of the notorious BA ‘fire and rehire’ policy, it was not some personal vendetta on his part against workers but a necessity for BA and IAG to smash the wages and conditions of its workers to keep profitability for the company. In Doyle, IAG clearly believe they have a man even more ruthless than Cruz to carry this war forward.
The most damning part of Beckett’s statement was his open admission that, far from fighting BA’s ‘brutal’ treatment of its members, Unite has been the main instrument for preventing any strikes in defence of jobs and conditions.
Beckett admitted: ‘It is only because of the dedicated work of Unite and in particular our shop stewards that widespread industrial action has been avoided so far.’
What an incredible admission from a trade union leader, who boasts that the only role of the union is to prevent workers from taking strike action!
In August, a thousand-strong mass meeting of BA workers voted unanimously for strike action over the sacking of 12,000 under the fire and rehire scheme.
Immediately, the Unite leaders ran, not to organise a strike but to desperately seek a sell-out agreement with Cruz that they could pass off as a partial victory, despite it leaving fire and rehire still hanging over the heads of BA workers.
Beckett’s clear statement is that the role of the trade union bureaucracy in this crisis is not to fight for the interests of the membership but, on the contrary, to prevent strikes at all cost. This is the corporatist road of collaboration with the bosses and the Tories to ‘save’ a bankrupt capitalist system from the anger of workers.
The trade union bureaucracy fears above all else that any strike action today will be the spark to ignite a general strike that will pose the issue of power immediately before the working class.
Unite members must demand an emergency conference of the union to expel them and replace them with a new leadership that will immediately organise a mass strike to defend jobs and conditions.
This call must be taken up throughout the entire movement to kick out the class collaborators and build a new leadership prepared to mobilise the strength of the trade unions in a general strike to bring down the Tories and go forward to a workers’ government that will nationalise BA, along with all major industries, and bring in a socialist planned economy.
The crisis of leadership in the working class must be resolved by building the revolutionary leadership of the WRP throughout the trade unions that is prepared to take the power and put an end to bankrupt capitalism once and for all.