A battle bus toured Heathrow Airport with megaphones, flags and banners yesterday.
It was rallying support from other airport workers for the 13,000 striking BA cabin crew who are now into the third day of their current four-day strike action.
Cabin crew have discovered that after last weekend’s three-day strike many have lost two week’s wages, because BA stripped them of pay for the duration of a return trip, including rest days in between and mandatory rest days at the end.
Describing it as another example of BA boss Walsh’s ‘bullying,’ Unite stated: ‘This is vindictive behaviour. We regard it as punitive for people to lose two weeks’ pay for undertaking industrial action for just one day, especially as it comes on top of the withdrawal of travel allowances.’
Unite estimates that a third of staff use the travel allowance to travel to work, either because they live at the other end of the country from the London airports, or because they are one of the 1,000 crew living overseas.
Unite said that over the weekend six planes at Heathrow were loaded with passengers, then unloaded because no cabin crews were available.
Unite also said that BA had handed the operation of European flights over to eight other operators.
In response to Walsh’s claim last Friday that striking cabin crew would ‘never’ have their travel allowance restored, Unite aviation officer Steve Turner declared: ‘There will be no settlement without staff travel concessions having been returned.’
Unite said that the company is going to extraordinary and expensive lengths to pretend it is business as usual at the airline, including grounding its own flights so it can use pilots as cabin crew on other BA flights.
Striking cabin crew member Stephen told News Line: ‘Walsh is not interested in negotiation. British Airways made a huge loss on price fixing and now Walsh is trying to claw it back by taking it out on us.
‘The total BA loss last year was £330 million – £270 million from price-fixing and £60 million from the operating loss,’ he claimed.
Susan, who commutes from Leicester, said: ‘Walsh says BA is haemorrhaging money daily. Then why has he allowed a £10 million dispute to escalate? Give us the truth Willie!
‘He doesn’t want it sorted out. He wants rid of us and to change BA from a premier airline into a low cost airline. No-one is immune. Who is Walsh going for next?
‘He was brought in to do three things. One, trim the management, two, cull the union, three, put flying crew on minimum wage. He’s trimmed management and now he’s moving on to the other two. He’s got to go now.’
Her colleague James said: ‘We will carry on after Tuesday. Walsh is a bully. 92 per cent of cabin crew voted for strike action. Nine out of ten cabin crew are not happy with management. We don’t want to strike but have to.’
Jose, a cabin crew member who lives in Spain, said: ‘I’m Spanish and earn £11,000 basic. I have worked as a cabin crew member for 12 years. The media have portrayed us badly. This is a Labour government and they are robbing the economy for the bankers, while we are being penalised.
‘The laws are for bankers, not the employees. We are not even allowed to use our names when speaking to the media. We are not living in Burma! We invented the unions in Britain.
‘I live in Spain. The loss of the travel allowance means I will lose the right to go back to Spain. It is wrong that we can’t express ourselves openly. We are not in a dictatorship. The whole airport should come out with us.’
Samantha said: ‘I will back my union 100 per cent. I’m talking about Bassa, not Unite. We just want a company that will negotiate, not impose. If Walsh doesn’t back down, we won’t either.’
An Asian cabin crew member said: ‘If we get rolled over it will be open season for the rest of the unions. It is in their own interest if the airport comes out to support us.’
His son added: ‘We want Willie Walsh out and all the money the top managers get to be distributed to the cabin crew.’
Craig said: ‘What Walsh is doing is not about wages, it’s about union-busting. All of us have offered pay cuts and wage freezes, to the best paid airline CEO in the world!
‘This strike has already cost £100 million and it’s supposedly a dispute over only £11 million difference in savings.
‘Walsh wants to crush the unions to keep his position and the funny thing is, not a single crew member here wants to fight, but this is what we’ve been forced into.’
Gate Gourmet sacked worker Balbinder Grewal said: ‘It’s unfair for the cabin crew. I want them to win and I want to support them. When we were sacked all the BA workers came out on strike to support us.’