Tony Woodley told striking British Airways cabin crew to cheers yesterday that: ‘Derek Simpson and I stand here as one behind your campaign behind your dispute and behind you’.
Speaking at a Heathrow airport rally, he rejected reports that ‘you have been browbeaten into submission, demoralised, battered and bruised’.
Woodley continued to further cheers: ‘We stand here some weeks on from when we were last here, among hundreds of decent men and women who just want to be treated with respect and dignity, and don’t (just) say it, (but) actually mean it.’
He added: ‘I stand here among members who I’m proud to be with, members who more than acknowledged that where there are business problems we all stand together to help solve them.
‘That’s why your reps offered, well over 60, 70, 80 million pounds worth of cost down to help and assist this company to be prepared for a future that’s difficult.
‘That wasn’t good enough for British Airways and for Willie, they wanted more.
‘And the more they want they are not going to get, which is the destruction of our union, the destruction of your terms and conditions, and indeed the imposition whenever he (Walsh) wants of changes without agreement – well, they can’t have that.’
But Woodley added that ‘the offer is on the table this afternoon, he can have this strike suspended, now, right now, if he returns your travel concessions without the loss of seniority.
‘That will allow us to conclude the other items of business, including justice for those 54 people who have been disciplined.’
Derek Simpson the co-leader of Unite said: ‘Walsh wants to be in a position to impose whatever changes he wants.
‘I don’t believe he wants a settlement. He has used every excuse to avoid a settlement.
‘In private he concedes that the removal of the travel allowance is unsustainable but not in public’.
Before Woodley’s arrival, strikers spoke to News Line on the lively picket line around Heathrow Airport and at the Bedfont base.
Jim said: ‘For me, negotiation is the only way forward but Walsh isn’t interested in negotiation.
‘He just wants to impose new working practices. He’s just out to break the union. Every time we get round a table the goalposts move.’
Steve joined in, saying: ‘To show us a bit of respect he does have to restore our staff travel and he does have to treat our suspended and dismissed members fairly.
‘But the redeployment agreement is a company-wide issue and all BA workers should be aware that Walsh is determined to smash it up and drive us all in a race to the bottom.’
Gerald said: ‘I think BA needs a general walk-out. They are trying to portray the situation as if it’s just the cabin crew.
‘The reason Walsh has started with us is that we are the biggest and strongest department and he thinks if he can deal with us, then he can move on the rest of the company like a walk in the park.’