Friday, May 28, 2010

UNISON London Regional Council 2 - BA Unite speaker

2nd Speaker was BA Unite cabin crew steward, Nikki Marcus. Who gave an excellent and inspirational speech about the real reasons for the strike and why it matters to all of us.

The strike started over BA demands for £120 million of savings from the 14000 cabin crew. Despite being unfairly targeted for more savings than other parts of the group the union negotiated with management and were within £9 million (BA figures) of a deal. BA wouldn’t compromise and forced strike action which has cost over £100 million. This has made staff believe that BA is not after a deal but is more concerned with “union bashing” and intent on smashing the union.

BA cabin staff are also by definition not a “militant” bunch of people. There is no “shop floor”, it is a dispersed workforce based all over the world. Yet they have shown amazing solidarity. Perhaps it is true that a company gets the union it deserves.

In the first ballot an incredible 92.5% of members voted in favour of strike action. Yet because 800 members applying for redundancy were balloted BA were able to get the strike declared unlawful even thought these 800 votes made no “material difference” to the outcome of the ballot. BA have also withdrawn travel concessions even though many of their workers have to commute from all over Europe, disciplined 56 members and sacked 8. Despite this 81% of members voted in a fresh ballot for further strike action. There was another injunction by BA on yet another immaterial technicality which was thankfully over turned by the Lord Chief Justice.

It is now clear that this is nothing to do with cost savings but an attempt to smash the union. BA wants to “race to the bottom” and have their staff on the same rate as the lowest paid in non unionised Ryan Air. Why don’t management want this same “race to the bottom” to take place for the pay rate of CEO’s?

Nikki gave not only a great emotive speech but put over a powerful but simple argument that will ring particularly well with those in the audience that represent members in the private sector and have to deal with anti-union, anti-democratic employers who want to destroy us.

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