Monday, June 07, 2010

UNITEd We Fall

Ten days ago, Laura Solon scythed through the bs to the basic truth of the ongoing industrial dispute between British Airways and its cabin crew. Speaking on Have I Got News For You, she said that the biggest fringe benefit the cabin crew have is an airline to work for.

Now, on one hand I can understand the shock and anger you feel when your employer cuts payments or benefits. I've experienced this myself on a number of occasions, such as when my pension changed from being a final salary pension (good) to a defined benefits one (poor). That one change on its own cost me a few hundred thousand pounds. It cost most of my fellow workers much the same. But it had one huge fringe benefit: we still had a company to work for.

Right now, UNITE seems to be spoiling for a fight, not just at BA. It could scarcely choose a worse time: worldwide the combination of recession and fierce international competition mean that when I (or anyone else) is looking for a job, we are competing against not only the other people shortlisted for this vacancy but also anyone else, anywhere in the world, who can do the same work for a competitor.

Can a lower-paid worker in Ireland or India or the Far East do the same job, just as well? Then why should the company employ you?

This is where UNITE's confrontational approach is self-destructive for its members: the most likely result is the jobs will move elsewhere - whether to Emirates, Ryanair or Virgin. It's not clear how this will help BA cabin crew.

It used to be "United we stand". Today it looks more like UNITE's last stand.


Slim said...

I agree 100%. This is about the unions clinging onto the last clutches of power they have. The BA LHR crew are being used as pawns. Proof that Willie is doing the right thing is echoed in the financial markets - they know he needs to hold out.

btw I'm sure BA/Willie are not innocent here, but there is no need to affect BA's business so greatly. The public is most definitely not on the side of the strikers. I feel sorry for some of the weaker willed cabin crew who feel pushed into a corner and that they must strike. But no more sorry than a smoker who cannot quit.

Sean Haffey said...

Just seen that The Economist feels similarly.

powerpointer said...

Absolutely right Sean,

I hear that the guy who runs BASSA, wants to create this strike so as to up his profile for when the Gen Secretary retires. His name is Mr Len McCluskey
BTW, I love the head banging sign thing - where did you get it from ?


Sean Haffey said...

Ah, you will have to ask Slim about that. Drop me an email and I will put you in contact, if you wish.

Slim said...

THe handbanging sign is just an animated GIF I picked up somewhere. I'll mail it to Sean.