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  • Published in Opinion
British Airways 747-400 landing at Toronto-Pearson in 2007. Photo: Flickr/ BriYYZ

British Airways 747-400 landing at Toronto-Pearson in 2007. Photo: Flickr/ BriYYZ

Today’s militants are learning old lessons in double-quick time, writes Isabel Carr

 This year has seen the mainly young, diverse, workers of BA’s Mixed Fleet Unite branch take 85 days of strike action – including a joint protest on 3 August which saw MFU join with striking Unite mem-bers from the Bank of England and Barts Health NHS Trust under the banner ‘LondonUnited’.

The MFU dispute concerns the unacceptable disparity in wages between the pre-2010 BA cabin crew, organised in Unite’s BASSA branch, and post-2010 employees, organised in Unite’s Mixed Fleet (MFU) branch.

This results from the settlement of a 2010 dispute engineered by BA in an attempt to smash union organisation in the company.

Challenging

As well as challenging BA’s narrative on their poverty pay levels, the dispute has seen staff sanctioned, and the Civil Aviation Authority give BA permission to sub-let nine Qatar Airways’ aircraft with cover for striking cabin crew – an act which Unite says breaches regulations.

In a press release on 22 August 2017 Unite confirmed it is pursuing legal action on behalf of mixed fleet cabin crew who have been sanctioned for taking strike action in the long-running dispute – in-cluding the removal of bonuses worth hundreds of pounds which the union argues effectively constitutes blacklisting.

With no further notice for strike action after 30 August having been issued, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey has called on BA to use a ‘pause for peace’ to enter talks ‘with a view to securing a mutually accepted resolution’.

Tenacity

BA mixed fleet Unite branch membership is learning about class struggle very quickly. BA management – and others – apparently believed they would back down quickly because they didn’t have the experience to organise effectively.

But they did get organised – and they didn’t back down.

Their strength and tenacity sends a powerful message to the movement, and to workers of all ages and backgrounds. Whatever the eventual outcome, the stand that these workers have made has taken the cause forward. And they – and we – will build on that.

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