Tuesday, 22 December 2009

GPTU statement on Proposed strike action by British Airways cabin staff

GPTU notes that the proposed strike action by British Airways cabin staff has been called off due a high court injunction. This verdict overturns a very strongly supported strike vote and seems to be a biased interference with Trades Union democracy. Reports suggest that even if BA staff leaving had been excluded from the ballot, which was the reason given for granting the injunction, there would still have been a majority vote for a strike. Management’s resort to legal action does not solve the underlying causes of the dispute and may even worsen matters.

GPTU therefore still supports British Airways cabin staffing their dispute.The threat by management to worsen their pay, their conditions and cut back on jobs is something which organised workers are right to resist. This is especially so in a climate where employers are mounting attacks on workers, if BA management get their way many other workers, in other industries could be the next to suffer.

As Greens we are critical of the aviation industry and we do believe its polluting activities need to be cut back, but we are committed to a JUST transition to a low carbon economy, not one where workers are made to suffer for problems which are not of their making. BA managements and all other employers should be negotiating with Unions and governments to ensure that the changes necessary to prevent disastrous damage caused by climate change can take place without workers being exploited.”
Guardian 17/12/2009

British Airways cabin crew voted this week to strike over staffing levels on flights. Here, one crew member, who asked to remain anonymous, explains the reasons why.

I was so proud to work for British Airways when I joined 13 years ago. It was an excellent airline. It is only in the last three years that everything has gone downhill. I am not proud to work for it any more.

Flights are taking off and landing, and everyone is being fed. When those doors shut and we are stuck in a metal tube with 300 people, the company knows we will always do whatever it takes to get the job done. If we don't, it is only we who suffer.
But staffing levels are down to the bone – on long-haul flights, crew have been cut from 16 to 14. We are at the receiving end of more abuse because passengers can't understand why the in-flight service is slower. We have had a lot more passengers saying, "I don't know how you do it," because it is noticeable just how much we are having to do. I try to avoid working in business class now because one crew member has been cut there so it is now the slowest service. But the airline needs those business class passengers.

We used to serve up the hot meal and drink in two-and-a-half hours. Now it is taking three-and-a-half. It is worse when something goes wrong. We have numerous problems with our in-flight entertainment system. When it works, it's superb. But it keeps breaking down and takes time to get fixed.

I'm not happy about striking for 12 days over Christmas. I hope people realise we are not doing this for the sake of it. None of us are over the moon about the timing but we have been forced into it. The union suggested cost-cutting measures and this dispute could have been settled months ago but BA dragged its heels. It's not just a case of fighting for one or two crew members who have been taken off flights – we are fighting for all our terms and conditions, our livelihoods.

I don't have any respect for BA chief executive Willie Walsh whatsoever. It is said average cabin-crew wages are £35,000 but my basic pay is still only £14,000. On top of that, when I am on duty, I get allowances for breakfast, lunch and supper. These depend on which country you work in – you don't get much in India. About 10% of my total salary is extra payment for working long hours – 15 or 16-hour days. Take 1,000 BA crew together and their average wage would be £25-28,000. I know people who work for Iberia, Lufthansa and KLM and they get paid more and get more days off. The claim that we are paid twice what Virgin staff receive is not accurate. They receive food allowances in cash. When you take these into account, they earn almost as much as we do.

It is very demoralising. On my last flight, we were all complaining to each other and wondering how we were going to get this or that done in time. I have had enough. I am actively looking for another job.
As told to Patrick Barkham

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