BA strike: The gain from Spain
I will admit to being puzzled by the course of the confrontation between BA's management and the airline's cabin crew.
On the basis of copious past form in the 23 years since BA was privatised, the company's executives - for all their talk of the imperative of introducing modern, flexible working practices - would be buckling by now.
They would have felt under intolerable pressure from a falling share price, which would have worried the owners, and from non-executive directors - who themselves would be feeling the heat from a government irked by the reputational contagion from such lousy industrial relations.
But there's no sign of surrender from BA's chief executive, Willie Walsh.
The non-execs are both privately and publicly standing behind his tough negotiating stance. Or at least so my enquiries indicate.
As for the share price, as three days of expensive strike draw to a close, BA's share price has fallen just a bit this morning; the fall is more-or-less in line with the general weakness of the market.
And the share price has risen during the weeks leading up to a strike that has already cost the company tens of millions of pounds - and with significant additional costs still to come.
So why are BA's non-execs showing solidarity with the execs in a way that has not always been characteristic of the company?
Is it because they with to "break" the union, Unite?
That seems unlikely - and is denied by the board members whom I've asked. In fact, they say there are great practical advantages in being able to negotiate employment issues with a single negotiator (in good times at least).
Is the rise in the share price and the resolve of non execs due to the magnitude of the costs that could be saved if BA were able to hire new cabin crew on cheaper terms and conditions than existing crew - which is an important management requirement?
Well, such savings could be substantial in the long term. But right now they look almost academic, because senior BA people tell me the current imperative is to reduce employee numbers, not recruit new staff.
So what is the big prize that keeps execs, non-execs and owners together in their battle with cabin crew and the union.
Well, to be facetious for a second, I think it is a lot to do with Spanish practices - or the imminence of the merger with the big Spanish airline, Iberia.
I am told that work is proceeding briskly to combine BA and Iberia.
But arguably it would be pointless crunching the airlines together - or so BA's management and owners would believe - if they couldn't do the traditional merger thing of eliminating duplicated overheads and improving productivity.
Now, given the highly regulated nature of the airline industry, it may be years before BA and Iberia can properly integrate their networks and secure these savings.
But BA's management would presumably want to feel that they had agreements with their own cabin crew in place that allow them to reap those savings, as and when they became available.
As for the alternative of caving in to the union in the current dispute, that would conceivably make it impossible for BA to secure the merger efficiency gains for a generation.
UPDATE 17:30 BA has just put out a Stock Exchange announcement saying that the costs so far have been £7m per strike day and that its guidance on its results for the current year has been unaffected by the dispute.
This is tough talk - and implies that the company has the financial wherewithal to absorb many more days of industrial dispute.