STRIKING British Airways cabin crew received great support from workers and other trade unionists over the weekend.
Last Saturday, News Line interviewed cabin crew on their picket lines at Heathrow and Gatwick, and at their headquarters at Bedfont Football Club, which is the base from where minibuses transport the strikers to the five lively picket lines around Heathrow Airport.
British Airways boss Walsh has removed their travel allowances and the strikers also face losing up to two weeks’ wages for one day’s strike action.
Suzanne said: ‘This is all about the future. You’ve got to see the bigger picture. I’m proud of my job and I’m determined to save it.
‘It’s got to be strength in numbers. We need to get the whole union involved.’
Steve said: ‘Remember Aer Lingus. Aherne got it right and booted Walsh out. We don’t want talks with Walsh – we want him out and we want our airline back.’
Dave Henley said: ‘I’m not cabin crew, so I can give my name. It’s disgraceful. How can we live in a democracy where people are frightened of giving their names when they’re taking part in a legal industrial dispute. It’s absolutely disgraceful.
‘This dispute is the first time in a long time that a group of people have tried to protect what they’ve got. They’re not asking for more, they just don’t want what they’ve got taken away from them.
‘The ground crew are in the Unite union, so why are they not out as well? It’s the oldest trick in the book – divide and conquer. And half of these pilots are married to cabin crew as well, why are they not out? Their union should call them out.
‘There needs to be more solidarity. We need a general strike.
‘My wife commutes from Manchester to Heathrow, normally by plane. There are thousands coming down. Now she’ll have to drive. But the only reason she’s Heathrow staff is because Walsh shut the Manchester base five years ago.’
Jonathon said: ‘When you look at the far-reaching implications of what is going on, this is all to do with union-busting.
‘Cabin crew are not stupid. The right-wing press is trying to vilify us, but people don’t believe it and most people support us.
‘Also we’re getting so much support. There’s an underlying wave of solidarity for workers’ rights all over the world.’
Matilda said: ‘I’m disgusted that I’ve lost my lifeline to come to work. It’s not a “perk” like they keep calling it on the news.
‘I live in Italy and have to commute to Heathrow. I pay hundreds of pounds every month. I’ve just got to win this struggle.’
Jane said: ‘This struggle is going to spread. The ground staff are facing the same attacks as us. It’s time we got a few truths out.
‘The attack on our travel allowance is absolute bullying. And it shows the depth of feeling that people are prepared to lose that concession – that right – to stand up against the denigration of our jobs.
‘I believe in nationalised industry.’
Melissa said: ‘The attack on our travel allowance is a symptom of Walsh’s management style, which is based on bullying, threatening behaviour and blackmail.
‘British Airways management have given us a phone number to report bullying from our colleagues.
‘I’ve called that number to report Willy Walsh and Bill Frances, who is head of cabin crew and Walsh’s puppet, and I’ve made a complaint.
‘I think we need solidarity action.’
Many other workers came to support the strike, including a delegation of Gate Gourmet sacked workers, Honda workers from Swindon, bus workers from west London, Eurostar workers, and UCU university and college lecturers.
Parmjit Bains, leader of the Gate Gourmet sacked workers campaign told News Line: ‘We’ve come to support the British Airways cabin crew workers. They are fighting for what’s right.
‘It’s nearly five years since we were unfairly dismissed – 800 of us, because the boss wanted to cut our terms and conditions and cut the staff as well – just like is happening to the cabin crew today.
‘When we were sacked, BA workers came out on strike and gave us big support.’
Paddy Brennan, Unite Convenor at the Honda car factory in Swindon, told News Line: ‘I’m here representing 3,000 workers at Honda in Swindon, to support my colleagues.
‘This dispute is not just about BA; it’s a template for future attacks on the trade unions and if the Tories come in, this will be standard.
‘The whole trade union movement – PCS, GMB, the whole movement, has to stand up against the union-busters.
‘Walsh is out for confrontation and this struggle will emulate the miners’ strike, which was also about the trade union movement as a whole.
‘It’s up to the entire movement to ensure that the cabin crew win their strike and defeat the union-busters.
‘At Honda, they are also moving against our terms and conditions, like sick pay, shift premiums and holidays.
‘We’ve also got special problems because there is a no strike clause in our agreement, but we’ve called on Unite the union to rescind it.’
Abdul Omer, Unite Convenor for London Sovereign Buses, said: ‘I’m supporting the BA strikers in what I think is an industrial dispute, not a political dispute.
‘Walsh is out to smash the union. We have to make sure that it does not happen on a wider scale.
‘A busload of drivers from Unite central office are coming to support the strike today.’
Cabin crew at Gatwick Airport were in good spirits on the picket line early Saturday, with one cabin crew rep saying: ‘It is going well and morale is fantastic.’
His colleague added: ‘This dispute for us at Gatwick is about three things: first, our right to transfer to the cabin fleet at Heathrow with the current terms and conditions they enjoy there. That is the main thing.
‘Secondly, BA has cut the second purser on long haul flights, which cuts the flying allowances to the purser community.
‘We make our money up doing long haul flights, so cutting the number from two to one means less potential earnings as well as less chance of promotion.
‘And thirdly, our flying agreement which regulates our working practices in relation to time, destination, how many hours we can work, how many days we can fly, is being ignored by the company.
‘For instance, the flight agreement says we cannot accept flights that are longer than 12 hours and 30 minutes, that is the limit.
‘But the company is forcing us to breach the agreement without compensation – to work longer hours but without any extra money.
‘They expect us to honour our side of the agreement while they ignore it.
‘If they carry on like that, our current flight agreement won’t be worth the paper it is written on.’
Striking colleagues from Heathrow joined the picket near Gatwick’s South Terminal on Saturday.
A BASSA member from Heathrow said: ‘We’ve come down to support our colleagues at Gatwick because they are already on less pay.
‘These guys are standing up for our terms and conditions at Heathrow as well, and they are putting their jobs on the line.’