‘HUNDREDS of planes are grounded,’ Unite said yesterday, on the third day of the strike action by its British Airways cabin crew members.
Unite said yesterday morning that the strike was ‘biting’.
‘The evidence shows that BA’s much-vaunted contingency plans are failing. Of the 77 flights scheduled:
• ‘37 of these have been empty
• ‘37 are “contingency” – are ready to go but BA do not know if they will have crew to fly them, or in fact customers
• ‘Three are running as normal.’
Striking cabin crew at Heathrow and Gatwick spoke out yesterday about the way they were being treated by BA and demanded that Unite leaders stand by them in their fight for jobs, terms and working conditions.
The mood was jubilant yesterday on the five picket lines around Heathrow Airport and in the Bedfont football club base, which has been commandeered by Unite during the strike action.
One female picket told News Line: ‘We’ve told Woodley (Unite’s general secretary) we can’t make any deal without it coming back to us for a vote.
‘But we don’t want a rehash of the last deal.
‘Walsh’s offers have got worse and worse, he’s out to smash the union.
‘If he succeeds in beating us, he will move straight on to the ground staff.
‘The laws as they stand prohibit effective trade union action.
‘After our first ballot in December he got a judge to injunct on a technicality.
‘Even other employment lawyers said that they were extremely surprised.
‘Then the next judge ruled that it was legal for Walsh to tear up our agreement just to try to save British Airways.
‘So the law is just an extension of the bosses.’
Another striking cabin crew member said: ‘Everyone must unite to fight against the fat cats who award themselves huge bonuses and try to leave the front line workers with crumbs.
‘Under Walsh, BA has been fined over £600 million for price fixing.
‘There’s been the Terminal Five debacle, which was an embarrassment.
‘He was warned by his own staff it wasn’t ready for opening and he pig-headedly went against all advice – and look at what he did at Aer Lingus! He’s grossly incompetent.’
Another colleague said, pointing to the huge crowd of strikers in the Bedfont football club car park: ‘This is great. Everybody is sticking together.
‘We’re showing Walsh who really gets these things off the ground and it’s not him.’
Another striker said: ‘The turnout has exceeded my expectations and we are only going to get stronger.’
Another striker said: ‘Unions across the world are watching this strike.
‘If we were to lose, it would be a blow to all unions. We must win. We have to stand firm.’
He concluded: ‘The baggage handlers and ground staff are going to face exactly the same treatment as us.
‘We have to get together in united action.’
Cabin crew at Gatwick airport were in high spirits yesterday.
Khalid Sheikh, an MA English student, told News Line: ‘After the successful struggle at our university, most students now realise that we are all in the same fight as the Brighton binmen, Royal Mail workers and BA cabin crew and we need to show our solidarity and vice versa.’
Gatwick pickets are increasingly furious with the reporting of the dispute in the capitalist media, especially the continued emphasis on crew earning ‘high’ salaries.
One picket with over 30 years service said that her basic pay was so low that she had to claim Child Tax Credit.
Another cabin crew member added: ‘What people don’t realise is that our hours have been capped under CAA rules to 900 hours a year on just £2.40 an hour while we pay over 63 per cent tax on our allowances.’
One picket said it was ‘shocking’ that BA is threatening Unite members who speak to the press.
‘I cannot believe this. We are meant to be living in a western democracy and we can’t even voice our opinion about industrial disputes!
‘No, let’s stick together and go after them because if they beat us they will come after everybody else.
‘My only worry is that Woodley and the Unite leadership will cave in.
‘I agree so much with the Greek people refusing to pay for a crisis brought on by the bankers. Why should we take pay cuts?’