BA Cabin Crew + Unite : Dumb and Dumberer

Amidst the revival of the backward Unite union’s attempts to convince their cabin crew members at British Airways to strike, it is worth repeating some of the material the press has unearthed about this bizarre dispute. The background to Unite’s recommendation for strike action – which was endorsed by members wholeheartedly in a vote before Christmas – are BA’s plans to implement working practices already in force at Gatwick, at Heathrow. Apparently the union was a bit miffed at not being consulted. It has since been reported that they were consulted but blocked the new working stipulations in a rather 70’s flexing of their shop-steward muscles.

These lunatic lemmings seem hell-bent on damaging the airline despite an economic crisis which the airline industry feels all the more acutely. I was lucky to chat with BA employees and customers to get their views. According to those I talked to, the high vote for strike action last year was due in part to the fact that the Unite members assumed they were voting for occasional, low-key actions as opposed to an all-out, death-match permanent strike. As Unite got kicked in their collective goolies by the High Court in the UK, a Christmas strike was averted but not before the damage to BA’s reputation was done – particularly amongst its North American customers. So these left-wing muppets are having another go in an exercise that seems more about the egos of the union representatives than it really does about protecting their members.

BA Cabin Crew earn on average almost double their counterparts at other airlines. Attempts by management to reduce the level of staffing on their flights to manage the impact of this inflated cost-base are also being given the 2-fingered salute by Unite. For example, a typical 747 flight requires 16 cabin crew; BA are asking to reduce this to 15. Redundancies are already happening; those cabin crew looking to keep working and to move into ground roles are being faced with the rude realities of pay cuts as they lose their flight allowances. BA Pilots have already accepted a pay cut, arguably because their larger salaries can accommodate a little pruning.

Willy Walsh has responded to the threat by asking non-crew to volunteer to fill-in for striking cabin crew and is actively asking for applicants to undertake training. You cannot fault him for trying to get ahead of the game and, above all, avoid the large scale cancellations that will prompt fliers to switch in advance (as I did over Christmas – sampling the lesser charms of Continental to ensure I could get back to Blighty for a family do). Sadly, customers booking ahead cannot predict the availability of BA flights so will naturally plump for another airline. Will they, like me, return ? Possibly.

Consider the backdrop to this sorry affair. Japan Airlines (JAL) went into receivership today. Surviving airlines are rushing to find allies in code- and cost-sharing agreements in order to survive. Analysts have responded positively to the pending BA-Iberia merger and are reportedly seeing this as the dream ticket in the industry. The British Airways’ reputation for quality means they stand to gain most from any recovery in corporate travel spending. (Certainly my clients in the City are now resuming air travel with gusto). All of this is now jeopardised by Unite’s ridiculous exercise in futility. See their press release, in response to Walsh’s call for internal support, which includes the following gem:

Tony Woodley, Unite joint general secretary, said: “This is a provocative attempt by BA to disrupt negotiations. It is inconceivable that BA should even be thinking of running its airline – the national carrier – with scab labour who have had only minimum training. This shows contempt for professionalism of cabin crew.

It is indeed “… inconceivable that BA should even be thinking of running its airline….”. That – of course – is the job of those pillocks at Unite. I do strive to keep a certain level of professional analysis and perceptive comment here at BabbleTalk; so please forgive the following observation: Tony Woodley – you are a complete tosser ! I bet your salary is sorted should BA go down the crapper or get taken over by a foreign airline. Well done !

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Electric Burner :October 26th, 2010 at 8:06 am

british airways is the best airline that i have been into, great crew and great service;’;

SimonOctober 26th, 2010 at 6:17 pm

No argument from me, EB, but you have to question the motives of their union when they act like lemmings ! Thanks for the comment.