Unite Retreats From Cabin Crew Strike

BA cabin crew strikers on the picket line at Heathrow last March
BA cabin crew strikers on the picket line at Heathrow last March

Unite yesterday cancelled plans for another strike at British Airways, and announced there will be a fresh industrial action ballot.

In a statement, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘British Airways cabin crew voted last month overwhelmingly, and for the third time, to take industrial action against their employer on a number of issues relating to the company’s conduct of industrial relations.’

He added: ‘In announcing the ballot result, Unite immediately appealed to management to meet the union for negotiations to resolve the outstanding issues which could have avoided any further disruption to the airline’s operations . . .

‘Instead, BA has launched a legal blitz against the independent scrutineer used to conduct this ballot, the Electoral Reform Society.

‘This doubtless reflects BA’s decision to place its chief legal officer in charge of employee relations.

‘While not addressing the union directly, BA advised the ERS that the ballot was unlawful and that any industrial action taken on the basis of it would be unprotected.

‘This is merely an assertion by BA – however, the ERS decided, on the basis of protecting its own legal position, to issue a qualification in its official report on the industrial action ballot.

‘Unite therefore cannot call industrial action based on this ballot, since such a move would expose our members to sanctions by a bullying employer.’

He added: ‘Unite is therefore immediately setting in hand preparations for a further industrial action ballot on the issues arising from management’s breach of agreements and policies of industrial intimidation, including amongst others the withdrawal of staff travel concessions, unjustified and draconian disciplinary sanctions against representatives and other members, the employment of strike-breaking cabin crew on different terms and conditions, the introduction of a new “mixed fleet” of crew again on different terms, and the intention to degrade union representation arrangements among cabin crew.

‘Failing a willingness by BA management to take its employment relations seriously and start negotiating, we would anticipate giving the company formal notice of this fresh ballot within the next ten days or so.’