From 27 to 30 March, British Airways cabin crew are due to have a second round of strike action. The first round came to an end on 22 March – the most important of the three days of strike action.
The action over the weekend mostly affected leisure travellers but Monday’s strike hit business travellers, a lucrative market for BA. One of the world’s largest airlines was largely put out of action at the beginning of a working week. BA bosses tried to claim that the strike was having no effect but they then announced £21 million losses!
The crowds outside the strike HQ grew over the three strike days with strikers queuing up to go on picket duties despite the early morning cold weather. Streams of vehicles passing pickets honked their horns in support.
Cabin crew have every right to feel confident. The rows of idle planes on the tarmac keep getting longer. Crew buses supposedly ferrying 50% of cabin crew to work were largely empty. BA bus drivers are directly employed by BA and are also members of Unite. They are some of the most enthusiastic supporters of the pickets.
One driver carrying a handful of scabs beeped her horn with gusto while passing a picket on a roundabout. By a stroke of luck the traffic lights turned red so the bus stopped close to the pickets for several moments. The driver considerately opened her window and gestured for the pickets to sing louder so her passengers inside would get the full benefit!
After months of relentless attacks by management, cabin crew feel they have finally started to shift the pressure on to management and Willie Walsh. The man himself disappeared during the strike, with no sightings of him around Waterside (management HQ) – apart from the occasional video broadcasted on YouTube where Walsh assured everyone that all was well and everything was going exactly according to plan.
This has led the strikers to dub him ‘Comical Ali’, after Saddam Hussein’s former propaganda minister, eternally optimistic in the face of reality!
From discussions on the picket lines and statements from Unite it appears there has been no contact from management about restarting negotiations. The general consensus was that a second round of strike action is likely.
Cabin crew will be starting this round of strikes in a much stronger position. They have public support, they have the backing of much of the British and international trade union movement and industrial action has hit the company hard.