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Daily View: Gordon Brown's criticism of BA strike plans

Clare Spencer | 10:25 UK time, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

British Airways planesA possible strike by BA cabin crew has taken on an additional political dimension after Gordon Brown called the plans "unjustified and deplorable." Commentators are divided about the prime minister's actions.

The Independent editorial says Gordon Brown is right to side with the management, saying the union has a blindness "lifted directly from the 1970s":

"Whatever his true feelings about where blame for this breakdown in relations lies, Mr Brown should press behind the scenes for a resolution. Any form of settlement is better than industrial action. But the fact remains that, of the two sides, it is the union which urgently needs to come back down to earth."

The Times editorial commends Gordon Brown for going against their funder Unite the Union:

"And yet, despite every incentive not to aggravate the Labour party's principal paymaster, the Prime Minister said that the strike was 'deplorable' and 'unjustified'. When silence was an expedient, he is to be applauded for making the correct call. Clearly, on the threshold of a general election, Mr Brown is reflecting the anger of the public at industrial action that reeks of self-indulgence and harms all concerned."

Andrew Pierce in the Daily Mail thinks Gordon Brown could have gone further by explicitly citicising Unite the Union:

"Despite the damage to Labour from that dreadful period of industrial unrest, which led to Labour Prime Minister Jim Callaghan's election defeat and the rise of Margaret Thatcher, there are increasing signs that Gordon Brown has not learned the lessons and is turning the clock back to the bad old days of the Seventies."

Assistant general secretary of Unite the Union Len McCluskey says in the Guardian that politicians have misunderstood them:

"I don't blame Gordon Brown for trying to bring together parties to resolve the dispute, but it is unfortunate that politicians always seem to want to kick unions and employees without considering management's responsibilities.
Much of the political positioning seems based on the misapprehension that Unite is refusing to talk to BA. In fact we have talked the hind legs off a donkey and will talk the front legs off too, if it will help."

Seumas Milne argues in the Guardian that anti-union talk is inappropriate:

"Underlying the dispute, of course, is a series of corporate failures under Walsh's stewardship, the impact of recession and the threat from low-cost airlines that have led the way in driving down labour costs and standards across the industry... But what is truly preposterous is the Tory and media insistence that the dispute confirms the grip trade unions, and the Labour-affiliated Unite in particular, have on the government. As the last couple of days have amply demonstrated, nothing could be further from the truth."

Damian Reece in the Telegraph says the Tories need a plan to avoid union turbulence of their own:

"Naturally the Tories are delighted to point out the contradiction in Labour's official condemnation of the strike, while still being bank-rolled by those same union barons. But the Opposition has lessons of its own to learn from the BA debacle.
Unite is clearly capable of desperate action. Should the Tories win the election and implement the public sector cuts promised, it will be them fighting a union backlash. But where are their plans for such a situation?"

Links in full

IndependentIndependent | Industrial action will be a disaster for British Airways
TelegraphTelegraph | BA strike: greater boldness is needed
TimesTimes | Flying blind
MailAndrew Pierce | Daily Mail | Mr Brown daren't confront the BA union bullies
GuardianLen McCluskey | Guardian | Don't blame British Airways cabin crew
GuardianSeumas Milne | Guardian | Labour rolls over for BA's bullies
TelegraphDamian Reece | Telegraph | Tories need a plan to avoid union turbulence
Wall Street JournalIain Martin | Wall Street Journal | Will Brown pay back Unite's millions in protest over BA strike?

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