British Airways workers have rejected the latest offer from BA bosses in their long running dispute over pay and work restructuring.
Minor concessions on pay were on offer but no significant promises on the original work-related issues of the dispute or the attacks workers have suffered during their campaign. While the deal did promise no victimisation of workers currently involved in disciplinary cases, it only offered a partial reinstatement of the staff travel allowance rescinded during the strike which many workers came to see as the key frontline attack.
The press have stated surprise at the result. It was assumed BA workers had no stomach for a continued fight.
However, the turnout was significantly lower than previous ballots and this might reflect a falling level of morale.
The failure of the workers’ union, Unite, to offer any real industrial leadership can’t have helped — they gave no recommendation on the offer, public statements continue to be couched in the language of reconciliation and accommodation. This, despite the intransigence and belligerence of BA bosses.
Management have spun the low turnout to imply that the high number of workers who either voted for the deal or didn’t vote at all represents an effective majority in support of accepting the offer. This is, of course, nonsense — if most workers didn’t vote all, that hardly represents a ringing endorsement of Willie Walsh’s miserly offer.
But rejection of the deal opens the door to further strikes, which may take place in September pending a ballot. Does enough stamina remain to strike again? Certainly Unite could do more to enthuse, galvanise and embolden its members. Rather than letting Walsh set the tone, it should go on the offensive against his project for British Airways.
They must also begin to mobile other aviation workers rather than allowing sectional chauvinisms to go unchallenged. If the cabin crew are defeated, it is almost certain that Walsh will go after some other section of BA workers next.
The dispute has cost British Airways an estimated £150 million plus so far. Some BA shareholders must be wondering whether Walsh’s ideological dedication to smashing the cabin crew union will end up costing the company more than it’s worth.