TWO MONTHS ago, Solidarity predicted that British Airways would be facing strike action. And we warned that any industrial action would be due to the dictatorial attitude of Willie Walsh - the British Airways Chief Executive.
The strike – announced on Monday – is a direct result of British Airways failure to sit down with unions and plan the way ahead for the company.
For a long time, BA workers have known that the company was in a bad way. Last year it posted record losses of £401million. For the first quarter of this year it had lost £148million. Indeed, earlier this year unions tabled changes that could have saved £140 million. However, BA didn’t act upon these proposals.
In our news report of 10 October – entitled British Airways: Unilateral action hastens strike action - Solidarity Trade Union President, Adam Walker, noted:-
“It’s been reported that unions and British Airways have been in talks for months. They have been discussing the best way forward for the company. Despite this, the airline unilaterally announced the changes without any union agreement.
The imposition of redundancies, a two-year wage freeze and the introduction of a two-tier workforce has justifiably angered workers. There are also questions arising about negative management, bullying and harassment. Feelings are running high – and no wonder.
I’m calling for Willie Walsh - the British Airways Chief Executive – to get back to the negotiating table. Unilateral action is no way to turn the company’s fortunes round. Unilateral action will only hasten strike action”.
At the end of October we reported on the increasing anger of British Airways cabin crew staff. (30 October – British Airways Strike Looms). Solidarity warned that strike action was just around the corner if the arrogant attitude of British Airways continued.
BA workers were particularly concerned at plans to slash another 3,700 jobs - on top of the 2,500 already shed since 2008. They were rightly worried that the proposed job losses will lead to outsourcing of airport staff, as well as unfavourable new rosters and a lower rate of starting pay. Some also felt that all career prospects will be put on hold.
Once again, BA wanted to impose new contracts on workers. They didn’t seemed at all interest in negotiation.
“No-one wants to lose pay – especially leading up to Christmas – but it looks like the workers have no alternative than to strike. However, there’s still time to stop this industrial action. Willie Walsh should sit down now and negotiate”.
For some reason, BA management didn’t seem interested in talks.
It came as no surprise therefore, that around 3000 cabin crew staff met last month to discuss the possibility of strike action. As we reported on 5 November – BA Staff vote on Strike Action – the result of any strike action ballot would be announced on the 14 December.
Equally, it came as no surprise that 92% of workers - on an 80% turnout - voted for strike action. The 12-day Christmas strike is scheduled to take place between 22 December and 2 January 2010.
Reacting to the strike, Willie Walsh - the British Airways Chief Executive – has launched a bizarre media charm offensive. Apparently, the strikes are completely the fault of the workers and unions!
He is now doing his utmost to protect BAs customers from the "massive stress and disruption."
Solidarity has constantly pointed out that his Macho-management style is at the root of the problem. As our various news reports have noted, Willie Walsh had the chance to negotiate more than two months ago. He didn’t bother – and is now reaping what he has sown.