Industrial  •  Unite the union

Unite leaders recommend surrender

01 September 2020

Say No to Shoddy British Airways Deal!

Unite the Union is balloting British Airways ground staff on a deal proposed by BA, the acceptance of which would represent a capitulation by the union to the BA bosses. The deal includes: 10% wage cuts; weakening of holiday entitlements; abolition of set shift rotas; and the scrapping of a previously agreed pay deal. These are the terms of an abject surrender, not a “deal”.

British Airways claims that it needs to degrade workers’ pay and terms & conditions because of the Coronavirus crisis, which due to the lockdown has had a huge impact upon aviation. While it is undoubtedly the case that the industry, and the company, took a hit, the BA bosses’ primary motivation is to keep theirs’ and shareholders’ profits as unaffected as possible by the crisis. As usual, workers are expected to pay.

The union leadership claims that because the pilots’ union, BALPA, has cut a deal, they were forced to do the same for ground staff. However, by accepting this logic, the union has prepared for the same deal to be rolled out across all BA staff, on the basis that ground staff have accepted it. BA intend to attack the pay and terms & conditions of all their staff, and therefore the union should be organising all workers to resist, rather than cutting terrible deals on a divisional basis.

Another argument made by the Unite leadership in support of the deal is that a strike would damage the industry, which is already weakened by the pandemic. This logic only works if the union sees its role to be sustaining the company rather than the workers. From the perspective of what is best for the workers, such a time is ideal for strike action, as the company is in a position where it cannot afford a protracted dispute and will therefore cut a deal with minimum pressure.

The deal Unite hopes to strike with BA is a prime example of how unions shouldn’t behave in the current crisis. Many companies are going to be affected by the economic crisis precipitated by the pandemic, and they are going to do their best to ensure that workers pay for it with job cuts, pay cuts and the degradation of terms and conditions. It is the unions’ responsibility to fight this, not to capitulate before the fight has even started.

BA workers should reject this deal and demand that the union leaders organise an industry-wide fightback against any attempt from the bosses to make workers’ pay for this crisis.

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