‘Unite has aided mass sackings!’ – BA workers demand recall Unite conference to sack leaders

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BA Unite members demonstrate – they are demanding the union call national strike action to defend jobs

BRITISH Airways workers yesterday accused their union leaders of ‘aiding and abetting’ BA in its mass sackings and contract-busting plans, and demanded the Unite and GMB unions call national strike action now to defend their jobs, terms and conditions.

Unite told its ‘below wing’ (i.e. ground staff, baggage handlers and loaders working on the ramp at Heathrow) members last Friday: ‘The email covering the offer of a future role in BA says the company don’t have a contract to offer yet, so what exactly are you signing? The answer is we don’t know, you don’t know and neither do they. They’ve even said so in the email.’

However, members were still urged to sign up to accept this so-far unknown contract by members of their trade union stewards negotiating panel (SNP).

On Monday, they received this from a member of their NSP: ‘Union cannot put anything in writing as such for the individual decisions that need to be made but as a group we decided it’s in your best interests to confirm your intentions on the preference form contained in MB’s (BA’s Heathrow boss Mel Birch’s) email. And submit b4 Noon Tues/tmrw. Hope this helps for anyone in doubt!? Filling mine out shortly.’

The NSP advocated signing despite also noting that BA intends to ‘outsource’ jobs, saying: ‘It appears that this could be the real reason behind plans to vastly reduce current contracts, making the movement of staff to a new company under TUPE far easier.’

Below wing ground staff worker Jamil Singh told News Line: ‘We have given notice of intention that we want to stay with the company, all baggage handlers, loaders, all below wing staff, I would say about 1,000.

‘As far as I know everyone has done so. We don’t want these new terms and conditions and unpaid leave. It amounts to a pay cut of between £6,000-£8,000 a year, which we can’t afford. But they’ve already been making hundreds of below wing staff compulsorily redundant and they threatened to do the same to us.

‘Our union stewards told us to sign it without knowing the details of the new terms and conditions in order to save your job and they are leading people to believe that it’s just an expression of a wish to stay with BA. And we are also being warned that we are quite likely to be outsourced.

‘BA have got everything that they wanted so far – the national flag carrier in their hub at Heathrow their own workers are being lined up to be outsourced.

‘If you can’t call everybody out now it’s pointless. You can’t just call the airport out, the whole of the union and all the unions around the country should come out.

‘The union must stand up and fight before it’s too late. This morning our shop stewards were texting everyone saying those that haven’t signed should do so before noon or face compulsory redundancy.

‘That’s just acting as the agents of the bosses. It’s like no-one is acting on behalf of the staff anymore. The bosses are doing what they want to do, the unions are saying don’t engage, and when it’s too late the unions are telling their members to sign or be sacked.

‘Back in 2005 we were all called out to support the Heathrow catering workers at Gate Gourmet to save their jobs and we came out.

‘Now the whole country should be called out to save our jobs, before it’s too late.’

Steve Smith, an above-wing (in-terminal) BA ground staff worker in customer services, told News Line: ‘A ballot of several thousand members was held over the weekend – above-wing ground staff, engineers and customer-facing staff in the terminals – asking if they accept or reject management plans.

‘83% accepted and 16% declined. It seems to be an overwhelming percentage accepting, however, since then the NSP reps haven’t made themselves available. The reason members voted in favour was that they were threatened with the sack. I voted against.

‘The union should have called action to defeat this. Unite have really surrendered in the face of what they themselves call company bullying, betrayal and a national disgrace.

‘We’ve got to change our leaders. We need a national conference to brainstorm new ideas. The membership is furious. Unite should call a national strike to put a stop to all this. ’