UNITE, the UK’s biggest trade union, is on the front line of the class struggle as ‘fire and rehire bosses’ at BA and other giant air companies sack thousands of workers and rehire some of them at cut wage rates and vastly inferior terms to try to drive workers back to the hungry 1930’s.
Cargo workers at British Airways, members of Unite, have voted by 98 per cent in favour of strike action to smash the company’s plans to fire and rehire its entire workforce and re-employ them on vastly inferior terms and conditions.
Workers are very angry and keen to drive back and defeat BA so that they can continue to feed their families and maintain their living standards – after all, this is what trade unions and trade unionism are all about.
However, the Unite union leaders are not keen on strike action at all, despite BA management’s bullying and its attempts to inflict changes by firing and rehiring its workforce. The Unite leaders have decided to delay immediately announcing strike dates in order to give BA a final opportunity to reach what the union calls a ‘fair resolution’, and agree changes with its workers.
Even after the 98% vote, BA is attempting to force the cargo workers to accept new contracts which will result in many of them experiencing pay cuts of between 20-25 per cent, with the entire workforce experiencing huge reductions to its terms and conditions.
However, Unite, the most powerful union in the country, has refused to call the strike action! In fact, it is actively engaged in assisting bosses to cut wages and slash terms and conditions of service by arguing that the savage cuts should be reduced.
It has boasted that the union has reached agreement with British Airways in all the other sections of the company where it represents workers to lessen its proposals to slash their wages, but has been unable to do so for the cargo workers, due to the continued intransigence of management.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: ‘Unite members have stood up to the industrial aggression of British Airways and have overwhelmingly voted for strike action. The huge yes vote by cargo workers must act as a final wake up call to British Airways.
‘Unite is delaying the announcement of strike dates to allow Shaun Doyle, British Airways’ new chief executive, to do the right thing. He needs to withdraw the threats of firing and rehiring its cargo workers and hammer out a fair deal for this loyal workforce.
‘If British Airways fails to grasp this opportunity for peace then Unite will swiftly move to strike action which will cause huge unnecessary disruption to British Airways cargo deliveries.’
Unite has become the softly, softly trade union, that understands the bosses’ problems, has come to the conclusion that there must be some wage cuts and job losses, and works with the Tory government’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, to limit wage cuts, sackings and speedups and make them less devastating.
It does not put the interests of the working class first, it seeks a fair deal for both bosses and workers. Its approach is corporatist and collaborationist.
Instead of mobilising the working class and the TUC trade unions to organise a general strike to bring down the Johnson government and bring in a workers’ government that will carry out socialist policies, it postpones all action to allow the bosses an opportunity to rejig their cuts and sackings, so that Unite can claim it has saved a few jobs and that its cooperation with the Tories and the bosses is working.
Unite members at BA are very angry, as are millions of trade union members, at the refusal of the Unite and TUC leaders to do anything more than express admiration for Chancellor Sunak’s policies that have allowed the bosses to engage in their ‘fire and re-hire spree’.
They know well enough that the huge debts that the Tories are building up will all have to be repaid by sacking millions of workers and slashing wages and conditions.
Only the WRP is calling for the sacking of the TUC and all of the union leaders, and their replacement by a leadership prepared to call a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers’ government and socialism. Now is the time for all workers and youth to join the WRP and the Young Socialists.