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BA strike: The gain from Spain

Robert Peston | 12:12 UK time, Monday, 22 March 2010

I will admit to being puzzled by the course of the confrontation between BA's management and the airline's cabin crew.

Two British Airways jetsOn 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.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I understand Willie's got form on being tough. Perhaps that's why he was brought in to begin with. It's starting to look like a showdown - who runs BA, the management or Unite?
    It's painful, but for the future of BA, Willie probably needs to win.

  • Comment number 2.

    Robert,
    The big problem here is, I believe, the customer. I am someone who flies business and economy regularly, more economy than business to be fair. I have stopped flying BA unfortunately, due to:
    1) Inconsistent standards. Many flights are excellent, some have been poor. Many of their staff and contractors are good but a select few have let them down, particularly on long haul flights.
    2) Aircraft. Short haul seems to be much improved but their long haul flights I've taken inthe last couple of years are not a patch on others on the kangaroo / South East Asian routes, Virgin wins on the Atlantic for me. I'll pay to go A380, then A330/A340, then 777. ANZ you list a flight by having a 767 to Japan.
    3) Price. This is not always competitive and when put with inconsistent standards and aircraft then I'm always going to pick Singapore, Ethiad, Virgin, QANTAS, BMI and Lufty.
    4) Frequent flyers. I think QANTAS are being let down here by BA.
    5) Lounge facilities. Heathrow superb, as a gold freq flyer no grumbles.
    6) These strikes. I stopped booking on the pure basis of the strikes in December, the sword hanging over BA has meant I haven't gone back and probably will not unless there is no competition on a route.

    As someone who will always buy British, Commonwealth, European in that order where possible this is an issue for BA. Mnay of my friends and fellow travellers are less forgiving. WW and Unite need to think of the business and the decent staff before all is lost. I've all but gone but you have other loyal customers and new customers to retain for years to come...after all it is a service industry to all intense purposes.

  • Comment number 3.

    There is a bigger picture as well. The Middle East airlines are adding huge amounts of capacity and that can only send yields down further. And BA is in the weakest airline alliance - Star and Skyteam are far more extensive.

    Willie Walsh is being brave - he's tackling established problems, taking the flak for doing so and all for benefits which won't be seen long after he's gone to another job. BA's not in an immediate fight for survival but unless it cuts costs drastically then it will suffer in the long-term.

  • Comment number 4.

    "given the highly regulated nature of the airline industry" this merger does not strictly need cost savings to succeed, as it reduces customer choice and thereby strengthens the ability to overcharge for flights between Britain and Spain. But cost savings will be achieved anyway as the combined company reduces duplicate services and crams more people into fewer flights for a higher price.

    Allowing airlines to consolidate without open skies simply merges several smaller protected markets into a few bigger ones, ensuring that both efficiency gains and increased pricing power benefits the company (and the employees) rather than customers.

  • Comment number 5.

    Mr Peston's enquiries may be very pertinent, and we are all bemused by the track of this dispute, but the only things that matter are the continuing viability and customer reputation of BA. Neither of these is being served by the strike taking place or an extreme confronational approach by management or the union. Even if Willie Walsh wins, the union is defeated and all the strikers are fired, the result will be a BA workforce who will be queueing up to leave BA and who will think that BA management regards them like a piece of used chewing gum on the pavement. History tells us that when one side wins and the other side loses, there will be future hell to pay; Therefore, unless Mr Walsh wants to, or is being paid to destroy BA, he - and the union - have already gone 2 steps down the wrong fatal track. It is essential that both parties "win". It always is, and always will be. Any expert in industrial relations will tell you that this is "Rule No 1". When are these idiots going to learn rule No 1?

  • Comment number 6.

    Apologies,
    7. Lost luggage, BA have lost my luggage a few times, the resolution and repatriation was pretty good, much better than Such A Bad Experience Never Again who only just caught me getting back in the cab to the airport with my luggage.

  • Comment number 7.

    > 3. At 12:57pm on 22 Mar 2010, APbbforum wrote:
    > There is a bigger picture as well. The Middle East airlines are adding
    > huge amounts of capacity and that can only send yields down further.

    The cabin crew aren't worried. They live in the overheated south-east, where semi-skilled jobs are ten-a-penny. And we're not worried because there's plenty of other public transport providers.

    So who exactly is worried – oh yes, the money-men, the government, and those ugly managers. Basically, all the usual suspects.

    I'm fine with it if no taxpayers money is wasted in this squalid little dispute between a thick, belligerent boss and some infantile Air Stewards straight out of Scooch. It's like watching two bald men fighting over a comb.

    Let's just hope some bankers get stranded.

  • Comment number 8.

    Robert
    In all the coverage of the BA strike one only reads about the cost to BA. Could you investigate how much it is costing Unite, how much Unite is paying the strikers, what size is Unite's war chest for this strike, how long will the war chest last, and what impact this will have on Unite's ability to continue its contributions to the Labour Party?
    Thanks

  • Comment number 9.

    If BA think that the problems they have with Unite are somehow going to be overcome by "Spanish practices" when they merge with Iberia, they're barking...

    Employment law in Spain - antique and manifestly counter-productive - has given rise to more than double the level of unemployment anywhere else in Europe. How on earth is BA going to deal with this? Does it need yet more 'bother' in its already dreadful industrial relations portfolio?

  • Comment number 10.

    No sign of surrender from BA's chief executive, Willie Walsh’s tough negotiating stance.
    So why are BA's non-execs showing solidarity with the execs?
    Appeal from Unite General Secretary, Tony Woodley for BA Chairman, Martin Broughton to help resolve the dispute was rebuffed. Ouch!
    Evidently the London-based company supports the strategy of Chief Executive Officer, Willie Walsh.
    Credit-default swaps on BA balance sheet debt has risen 18 basis points to 429 points. And this means perceived deterioration of credit quality..These darn credit default swaps are all over, like cancer.
    So, what’s up?
    November, BA agreed to merge with Iberia Lineas Aereas de Espana SA. Iberia is up 33% in Madrid.
    Is this becase the management wants to break Unite?
    I don’t think so. I think it has more to do with share price, costs saved through reduced staff, & the uncertainty of BA's overall balance sheet credibility.
    So what’s everyone waiting for?
    Merger - with the big Spanish airline, Iberia, elimination of duplication, especially in overhead and that old bug-bear: improving productivity. Management will not cave because that would make it next to impossible for BA to secure the merger efficiency gains for which Willie Walsh is aiming.
    BA may be in more trouble than its balance sheets convey. Both BA and Iberia may be aware of this; so the merger gets convoluted, maybe even mortally sick from credit default swaps entanglement.

  • Comment number 11.

    Unions have been essential for the fight for everyones rights we all take for granted today. Every so often the unions get highjacked by individuals who have an agenda of their own, and they use their "members" as a smoke screen to achieve their own ends. In the past Arthur Scargill was such a union leader, Bob Crow is one more recent. However I want to look to recent history and the actions of Tony Woodly of UNITE. I remember the same statements being made at the time to Rover Management as he sat by and watched that once great company finally go to the wall. I feel sometimes that he won't be satisfied until we hear on the news that BA has been taken over by foreign flyer due to these attacks on the modernisation of BA in the most difficult of times Merger or Takeover I know which I would prefer.

    Lets see what happens and how many jobs Tony saves this time

  • Comment number 12.

    Lets look at this from a different angle:
    BA has always had pretty appalling management - as in couldn't open a terminal when it was the only one responsible.
    BA are pretty much doomed - they can get the staff to work for the same pay as other airlines but then the airline has nothing to offer customers and maintaining the pension fund for the directors would quickly drive it into bankruptcy.
    So which way out? Well there's an election coming and if we can encourage a strike there might be a few seats in the Lords up for grabs or running some quango...
    Sorry shareholders - go talk to Byers I'm sure he can help.

  • Comment number 13.

    BA Management has to win this dispute or the airline has no future with it's high current cost base. It's as simple as that. There is no grey area. It's black & white. BA personnel face an uncertain future of both falling real income & headcount losses. Unite aren't stupid. They must recognise this in private. They are simply trying to delay/minimise the impact of BA cuts.

  • Comment number 14.

    Sheer nonsense! The Iberia merger has nothing to do with the strike, since the operating companies will be kept entirely seperate, and crews will not be mixed in any way. The simple fact is that most of the costs airlines incur are broadly the same - fuel, aircraft, landing charges, maintenance, distribution etc - so if there is a difference in staff costs that makes you uncompetitive. The global overcapacity in the airline industry means that fares have been declning for years. BA crews are paid considerably more than BA's competitors, which means that as fares come down, BA is not sufficiently profitable to justify new investment. If costs are not reduced, the airline will become less and less profitable and inevitably shrink. BA's management cannot allow that, so they are acting in the only way they can. They are doing their jobs in the correct way, trying to keep the airline profitable and trying to ensure that everybody else has a job and future at the company.

  • Comment number 15.

    Whatever the rights and wrongs of the strike, I think BA are wrong to appear to be tough against the unions. They should play the victim card and be transparent with the public about what they are trying to achieve with the reforms. If it appears that there are reasonable concessions they could make but they are choosing to be tough then they are at least jointly responsible for the disruption.

    The union claims a 90% mandate for strike action. And yet BA insist that over 90% of staff at Gatwick and over 50% of staff at Heathrow are working. So which is true? If we assume that the Gatwick staff only represent a small percentage overall and we take the 50% figure as the representative one, it is still miles away from 90%.

    So are BA lying? Can they operate the number of flights they claim to be with only 10% of their cabin staff? Disproportionate action like striking can only be partially justified with 90% of workers in agreement, but if BA are right and less than 50% are striking then Unite doesn't even have a mandate. In any event, anything less than 90% then their case is seriously weakened.

    Where is the truth of this matter? Have cabin crew voted for strikes and then worked anyway? Has Unite rigged the ballot with votes from non cabin staff? Is BA lying about the number of staff working or the number of planes flying? Just a few basic questions I haven't heard anybody in the media or politics asking.

  • Comment number 16.

    Halleluyah, a non banking story at last.

    I wonder whether Unite brought the strikes now whilst Gordon Brown was still in number 10 in the hope he would lean on Willie Walsh to help them get what they want or at least to protect as much as they can of what they have at the moment?

    I can't imagine David Cameron being too friendly to Unite post May if he gets in power.

    I can see this being the first of the "big strikes" of 2010. We have Bob Crow and the RMT up next over Easter and no doubt the Public Sector Unions en masse this summer if the Conservatives get in.

  • Comment number 17.

    The airline industry seems to always be consolidating, changing, combining, striking, etc. This appears to be an industry in constant flux. It seems to be the nature of the business. I think most care about the price and on-time schedules over who actually runs the airline. People will find someone to fly them where they wish to go.

  • Comment number 18.

    Post 11, the car and van workers of the West Midlands be they ex MG Rover, Peugeot or LDV have had years of Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson et al at Unite talking a good story and doing nothing.

    Unite doesn't seem to have got rid of many chiefs following the mergers firstly of MSF & AEEU to form Amicus and then the merger of Amicus with the TGWU to become Unite.

    Messrs Woodley, Simpson, Dromey (yes Mr Harriet Harman) et all all have nice cushy jobs, huge salaries and pensions whilst the members do the fighting and losing of their jobs.

    If I sound bitter it is because I am. MSF did nothing whilst thousands of bank and insurance jobs went offshore and the AEEU & TGWU went through the motions and little else to save the car industry in the Midlands.





  • Comment number 19.

    I think there is suffient opinion kicking around not to get embroiled in this political football, however I am a little bemused by Jacques Cartier's comment about 'semi skilled jobs in the South East being ten-a-penny'. Where have you been living for the past 2 years?

  • Comment number 20.

    I've been puzzling over this too. Before Christmas, BA announced more horrible losses and looming strike action and the share price actually went up. Air travel is under intolerable pressure from all angles, from oil prices to ecological strictures, and unless someone invents a non oil based propulsion system, it's pretty clear that in a couple of generations, our descendants won't be flying around the world as we do now.

    Two other things can be surmised:

    1: Over the next 3-5 years, a couple of major airlines are going to face severe ecnomic problems unless they merge or cut drastically.

    2: No British government wants to be the one that stood by and allowed BA to go under. Too big to fail? You betcha. If BA is openly (or otherwise - want to bet the French won't with Air France?) propped up by the government, then there is money to be made from it.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    Robert ... can you comment on this Govt's appalling act of industrial treachery awarding a contract for the army's new light tank to an American company rather than BAe?

    BAe will now make 500 people redundant and the chances are we will lose our tank manufacturing capability which of course means we can just add that to the list of sectors where will no longer compete.

    The MoD say the contract will represent "value for money" which of course means the decision was driven by the Treasury and not by anyone that understands markets, strategy and what this does to the UK's long term interests.

  • Comment number 23.

    My wife is hoping to fly to the USA on Saturday and does not know (literally) whether she is coming or going. It seems that the war of words is getting harsher and there is nothing productive coming out of this. The Union and BA are going for a fight to the death and to heck with their customers. Who would want to fly with BA now? If between them, management and staff can't honour their commitments, there may well be other airlines who will be only too pleased to take up their business.

  • Comment number 24.

    I hven't flown with BA for years and would never do so. I have had very bad experiencing with them, especially regarding special meals on long haul flights. After not havign the requested meal on about three flight I finally wrote to complain. I got a letter back saying that it was nothing to do with them because they outsourced the meals. Is that any way to treat a customer? I mostly fly to The US and now use American, Continental or Virgin. I have found them all to have excellent service. But if BA tie up with AA I will give up on AA as well, as there is bound to be flight sharing and I may end up on a BA plane even though I booked AA.

    I don't think BA management care how badly they treat some customers.

  • Comment number 25.

    This is a battle that BA have to win if they want managemnet running the company and not Unite. Lets not forget that this issue has already gone to court, and it was established that BA are within their rights to make the proposed personnel changes without consulting the union. If they cave in now the union activists are going to have a precedent to question every decision that may not be 'in their interests'.

  • Comment number 26.

    It is a simple matter to explain the discrepancies in numbers between the 90% Unite say voted for strike action and the 50% of Heathrow cabin crew who have come to work: not everybody belongs to the trades union.

    As to the antedeluvian way in which the whole affair is being handled: it is scandalous that the 2 sides are not around a table 24/7 trying to resolve the situation. They need to realise that they all work for the same company and they all have a duty to every single employee to do their best to ensure future profitability for the company. If any single employee of BA is not prepared to do everything possible for its survival, they ought to resign now and go work for a company they do care about.

  • Comment number 27.

    I don't know the complete details of this dispute, but it's obvious that BA are making serious losses and asking for considerable sacrifices from some of their crews.

    I have heard figures of 40% loss of income should the changes be implemented !

    As a gesture of the seriousness of the situation, are all the senior executives of BA prepared to take a similar permanent reduction in their pay ?

  • Comment number 28.

    15. At 1:58pm on 22 Mar 2010, Alistair Thomas wrote:
    Where is the truth of this matter?

    I think it is partially explained by Unite claiming that the ballot for strike action was acted upon by 70% vote of members, meaning 30% didn't vote at all. So 90% of the 70% wanted a strike. If we assume that the 30% are working and so are some of the 10% that voted against the strike then you are getting near to 50% figure being thrown about by BA.

  • Comment number 29.

    "In the past Arthur Scargill was such a union leader"

    Go back to the time of the Miners Strike and look at Scargill's predictions about Tory plans to decimate the UK's coal industry. Then look at the reaction to them at the time. Then look at what actually happened. Scargill underestimated the Tories plans and was mocked and laughed at as a scaremonger and a loony lefty. All you Daily Mail sentiment expressing types need to come to South Yorkshire and have a tour around the former pit villages. And then ruminate on exactly who it was who broke Britain. Here's a hint...it was the woman with the mad hair who took away all the jobs who is responsible and not the bloke with the mad hair who was trying to save them.

    "They are doing their jobs in the correct way, trying to keep the airline profitable and trying to ensure that everybody else has a job and future at the company."

    And these selfless crusaders like Willie Walsh are only doing it for about six hundred times a year more than their grasping and venal cabin crew.

  • Comment number 30.

    So - we find that after reading your blog, and the comments from your readers, that there is no real reason for this confrontation.

    Perhaps Willie is looking for a job in another industry, and wants to raise his profile as a tough man.

  • Comment number 31.

    BA management has not been tough - it has just been consistent. Willie Walsh has come across as entirely reasonable, trying to deal with the problems of a business which just now is losing a shedload of money. The union on the other hand appears strident. It is not merely seeking to protect the interests of its members, it is presuming to be entitled to decide how the business itself is to be run - not just how savings are to be made but also when. That is no part of a union's role.
    The union is not putting any money into BA, it is not taking any risks with its assets, and yet it thinks it is entitled to tell BA's shareholders to bear even bigger losses so that its cosseted members at Heathrow can continue to enjoy the privileges they have not only over those working for other airlines but also over other BA workers. Power without responsibility. This strike action has nothing to do with protecting oppressed workers, the oppression is entirely the other way.

  • Comment number 32.

    BA chose a business model that assumed its customers would pay sky-high fares for more peaceful long-haul flying. It turns out that was an incorrect speculation, and the low-fare airlines have the winning business model. So BA has to change its business model or go the way of Pan Am, TWA and many other powerful long-haul brands.
    To cover up that strategic mistake, BA’s staff terms now need urgent and painful revision – which includes radical wage changes too. BA made an offer that Unite wanted to ask its members whether they would accept, and so BA immediately withdrew its offer. That’s not how to conduct relationships in a large airline. It's the reaction of a panic-stricken management.
    BA management is in the process of destroying its shareholders' investment and the jobs of its entire staff by trying to force through change without taking its people with them. Some effective leadership is needed. Lord King knew how. So did Colin Marshall. Leadership is about winning over people and convincing them of your plan.
    Walsh failed to select the right business model for BA’s future. He failed to launch the T5 terminal and brought BA to the brink of disaster. Now he’s trying to pile the blame onto the cabin staff. He knows he's failed too often. He wants a pay-off and to put the blame on his fellow workers when the BA airline goes bust. That’s not the leadership shareholders need.
    I used to be a BA shareholder – not one of the initial privatisation junkies, but a real shareholder. I got out because I thought the management (and maybe the Unions too) had lost the plot. It’s time major shareholders had a word with the non-executive directors and got a grip before their investments go down for ever.

  • Comment number 33.

    #9 ElEnfadado

    Spanish unemployment may be very high, but their employment level is only a few percent lower than elsewhere. Unemployment varies based on how the statistic is calculated ;-). The UK has an endless repository of categories available to categorise people in so they don't have to be unemployed, despite not having a job :-)

  • Comment number 34.

    British Airways - Unite union.
    Willie Walsh cannot and dare not now give in to Unite Union, simple reason, Walsh has been excellent in his maagment at Aer Lingus, turning a company before (Aer Lingus) indebted by millions to the taxpayer, he did it, his way, fairly and reasonable to all. I too believe in trade unions, for fair play etc. However, people should understand, in particular, the Unite union, there was a carbon copy (1/2) strike at Aer Lingus recently, meaning, pilots, ground staff, office staff, and baggage handlers all accepted the settlement, excluding the cabin crew, nedless to say the man at Aer Lingus,(German chief executive) fired all cabin crew 1,100 app. only last week, then immediately employed 650 of the same cabin crew. Off course, on new terms and conditions. That said, then all the Aer lingus cabin crew asked for new ballot, (to dig themselves out of a very, very deep hole created by themselves only). Aer lingus accepted (let them off the hook) so we await the union ballot, no doubt about the result next time. So Cabin crew at BA, need to understand and beware, Walsh i believe is not playing games. Get back to work, last but not least, it is ironic both airlines, Aer lingus and British Airways pilots-ground staff-office staff all accepted the pay offer by both companys, with the execption of the cabin crew. Are there more woman employed as cabin crew, or could Margaret Thatcher be back in disguise, or is this just a coincidence?
    Raymond

  • Comment number 35.

    Seriously Robert - are you dumming down for the general public?

    What do BA execs care about the airline failing? - they have already waxed off massive pay and super bonuses off the backs of the staff, and I'm 100% certain that even if BA flops they will be offered exec positions on other FTSE 100 companies.

    WAKE UP MAN - this is a war - there will be casualties, there will be sacrifices and losses.

    This started out as a mild dispute, but Willie's insistance on proving he can 'break the union' has taken it to a new and embittered level.

    Only the mugs are prepared to pay additional taxes for the largess of the banks adn their failures - the rest of us will fight.

    No workers - no profits.

    Industry can survive without owners - it cannot survive without a workforce (despite what the ruling class believe).

    WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE!

    Greece has shown us the way - now it's time for us to remember what freedom tastes like.

    Today I bought a 50g bar of gold (a real one I can touch) and at the weekend I'm buying a off road motorbike.

    ....now you need to ask yourself why someone who works in finance is taking such action.....

  • Comment number 36.

    Look, there may be a recession on, there may be redundancies and wage cuts in all sectors of industry but as all good union leaders know, money grows on trees. The bosses just wander out in the afternoon sunshine and pick some to pay wages with. Fewer passengers, rising costs, none of these things need be taken into account, it's simply a matter of collecting more money from the magic money tree in the back garden and doshing it out.

  • Comment number 37.

    18. At 2:50pm on 22 Mar 2010, Ian_the_chopper wrote:

    "Post 11, the car and van workers of the West Midlands be they ex MG Rover, Peugeot or LDV have had years of Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson et al at Unite talking a good story and doing nothing. "

    ...but what could they do? I mean how do you take on a consortium who extract cash from the business like it's an ATM when they're aided and abetted by Government.

    They can fight - but the reluctance of union membership means they're fighting with feathers instead of gloves.

    It's all well and good blaming the individuals, but the reality is the workers of this country have let themselves down.

    I mean look how many people on this blog admit having taken a pay cut (and all they have done it grumble) - and then they think this is a good reason for everyone to take one.

    Not one of them asked why they should - I find it pathetic the spineless private sector worker has capitulated and paid for the crisis - and now they think everyone else should follow suit.

    This will all change when the dumbos of Britain realise that their wages no longer pay for the cost of their ever increasing imported goods and services.

    ...it will start with petrol - and continue from there.

  • Comment number 38.

    Robert

    You are right about Spanish practices but they are nothing to do with Iberia.

    The reality is that in the Cabin Services department of BA the union runs the show. Nothing moves without Unite agreement, it's a left over from before BA was privatised.

    Since last year the rest of the staff have negotiated cuts in benefits and increased productivity. Unite continued on its own agenda; No surrender.

  • Comment number 39.

    29. At 3:13pm on 22 Mar 2010, Ian Nortcliff wrote:

    "And these selfless crusaders like Willie Walsh are only doing it for about six hundred times a year more than their grasping and venal cabin crew."

    Hear hear.

    it's funny how history gets re-written by people who were never there to begin with.
    This has all be coming for a long time and the fools of Britain have sat back and watched with their "it won't affect me" attitude.

    Well this time it will affect them, it's going to affect us all and they will be sorry.

  • Comment number 40.

    31. At 3:27pm on 22 Mar 2010, onlyfair wrote:

    "BA management has not been tough - it has just been consistent. Willie Walsh has come across as entirely reasonable, trying to deal with the problems of a business which just now is losing a shedload of money. "

    Now this 'losing a shedload of money' didn't happen overnight - don't you think Willie should have seen it coming?
    He didn't - which is a failure of his responsibility. His (too late) reaction is to ask the workers to cut their wages to save the company.

    Do you not know how much Willie earns? - Do you not see how hypocritical this is?

    As for the shareholders - well if they haven't worked out by now that they are merely the 'cannon fodder' for rich mens wars - then they really are STUPID.

    It makes me laugh to hear shareholders complaining about their losses - didn't you know you're the last in the queue - equities are merely punts.
    ...what do you mean you didn't read the smallprint before you sunk half your life savings into it?

    Ha ha, ha ha, ha ha - never mind, better luck next Capitalism.

  • Comment number 41.

    14. ibanker64 'The global overcapacity in the airline industry means that fares have been declining for years. BA crews are paid considerably more than BA's competitors, which means that as fares come down, BA is not sufficiently profitable to justify new investment. If costs are not reduced, the airline will become less and less profitable and inevitably shrink. BA's management cannot allow that, so they are acting in the only way they can. They are doing their jobs in the correct way, trying to keep the airline profitable and trying to ensure that everybody else has a job and future at the company.'

    Of course they are, they are indeed doing their jobs. So are the unions and the cabins crews. The basic problem is that the primary purpose of nationalised industries (and BA was until the 80s remember) is to provide 1) services and 2) employment first and 3) profit in order to sustain the first two. It's globalization or in the modern vernacular 'Social Democracy' (Socialist Internationalism) which is the problem. As this continues, there will be no nation states in Europe, just NUTs, each about 6 million in size. The problem is that such a system would only work as a socialist state (perhaps with Chinese Characteristics) but oddly, neither China, nor any of the rest of the SCO are in the Socialist International! That should ring some alarm bells about who will benefit from all of this (sorry to go back to the money lenders), but it invariably does (see the current president of the SI). Question: When is an NGO not an NGO? Answer: When it's a Wall Street investment bank or The Federal Reserve?

  • Comment number 42.

    BA have to stand fast. Unite along with all the other large union, including the RMT and the civil service union, need to be brought into the real World. During the last couple of years most private busines, large and small, have had to make adjustments to survive. Many employees have had dramatic cuts in their salary, pensions and add-on benefits. I objected to pumping vast amounts of tax payers cash into the banks for nil return and I do not want to see some of my limited pay being syphoned off to bail out BA when the union leaders sit by and stack up large salaries and pension pots.
    History shows that the likes of the NUJ and the miners union did not win. For the sake of the country Unite must not win.

  • Comment number 43.

    I have stopped using BA on the Sao Paulo - London route, because of their insistence on using a 747 which is a thoroughly uncomfortable experience if you are in the back. I also got fed up with their practice at Heathrow of herding everybody at check-in through the same queue, regardless of flight destination, which often resulted in an hour long wait to be processed. I have nothing against the flight crews or the service, which was always very professional, but I just had the impression that the important people on a BA flight were those in the front of the aircraft and "cattle class" just had to get on with it.

  • Comment number 44.

    I have a big holiday coming up later this year in Australia. The very first decision I made was to fly anyone but BA. That is what this uncertainty is costing them.

  • Comment number 45.

    ....and another thing - what's with all these moaning customers?

    Are you serious? - you don't purchase some god given right to travel on time (or at all) to your destination when you buy a plane ticket - didn't you read the small print there either??

    I am amazed how many booked BA tickets knowing there was a possibility of a strike (as far back as last summer) - and now you're moaning?

    Oh woe is me - I'm a poor customer, I've been let down.

    Surely you're used to it by now, whether you bought an Ipod and it broke exactly after 18 months, or you bought a second hand car and it broke down in the first 2 weeks, or a house that had rot (but the agent said a survey wasn't really necessary) - you're mugs, each and every one of you.

    I mean most of us (yes I include myself as a mug because I am forced to consume) - don't even realise that the we (the working people who do things) are paying for everything!!

    You see that bankers Ferrari - You paid for it

    You see that Ministers second home - You paid for it

    You see that Royal trip to Australia for no point whatsoever - You paid for it

    You see the roads, schools, hospitals - You paid for it

    You see those cuts coming - You paid for it

    You see that rescue of the financial system - You will pay for it

    I watched about 1000 people walking across London Bridge this morning, trudging into work.
    Next week I am going to buy a cat-o-nine tails and stand on that bridge and 'encourage' the working population to get to work faster....

    I mean you may as well make it look like ancient Egypt - for we are all SLAVES

  • Comment number 46.

    Given the fact that BA has not yet integrated the former BOAC and BEA after 36 years (there are still separate short-haul and long-haul operations and staff), what are the prospects of merging BA with Iberia?

  • Comment number 47.

    29. Ian Nortcliff wrote:

    "it was the woman with the mad hair who took away all the jobs who is responsible and not the bloke with the mad hair who was trying to save them."

    She didn't need to, it was a dying industry. Notice how little runs on coal these days? Or would you suggest that we continue to keep all the pits open regardless of how unprofitable and polluting solely on the basis of it being somewhere to park a large number of people each day?

  • Comment number 48.

    # 19. At 2:55pm on 22 Mar 2010, Thommo wrote:

    > I am a little bemused by Jacques Cartier's comment about 'semi skilled
    > jobs in the South East being ten-a-penny'. Where have you been living
    > for the past 2 years?

    Liverpool, as it happens, where they know about "hard times".

    I was actually referring to "bail-out jobs" - traders and bankers
    and other semi skilled jobs that anybody can do.

  • Comment number 49.

    Here you go 'customers' - here's something else you paid for...

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8579598.stm

    ...and this...

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8574956.stm

    ...or maybe you have bought a used car recently

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8572148.stm

    ...got a house phone? - well you've been ripped off there too...

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8574019.stm

    ...and one for the shareholders....

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8577831.stm

    ...and who do you think is picking up this bill...? come on, it's not hard...

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8577304.stm

    This is a selection of rip offs - and we've all been done over. The Government has colluded with business to commit the biggest of all.

    I mean doesn't anyone wonder why we don't devalue the pound more often if it's so easy to do and so rewarding?

    The asnwer is because the penalty comes later - or did you think your Government was being honest?

    This won't be paid for with a few taxes - this is going to require slavery - working for sustinence and that is all. Anyone who tells you differently is either cuckoo or they are in on the scam.

  • Comment number 50.

    36. At 4:02pm on 22 Mar 2010, AndyC555 wrote:

    "Look, there may be a recession on, there may be redundancies and wage cuts in all sectors of industry but as all good union leaders know, money grows on trees. The bosses just wander out in the afternoon sunshine and pick some to pay wages with. Fewer passengers, rising costs, none of these things need be taken into account, it's simply a matter of collecting more money from the magic money tree in the back garden and doshing it out."

    A recession? - did anyone tell Willie Walsh when he was awarded a pay rise to take his salary to £743,000 last year???
    http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/transport/article6474165.ece

    I mean imagine how many jobs that would have saved?

    I hate to inform you (because you obviously don't know yet) - moeny does grow on trees - they are printing press trees and there is an orchard in the BoE and it's growing it as we speak.
    Sadly the world does not want to be flooded with banknotes - it prefers items of real value.
    So you can take your 'pay cuts' on your 'devalued currency' and try to spend it next year and see how it goes...

    Best stick to the political blogs AndyC555 - where you can get away with partizan nonesense like that.

    Are you alright Jack? - well lets hope tax advisors are still needed in a world where nobody works anymore...

  • Comment number 51.

    BA is a private company, the cabin crew are are grown adults and it's really up to them. I can understand and sympathise with crew not wanting to take big pay hits and at the same time can see how BA could have a problem with a wage structure that is higher than many of their competitors. I also suspect that at least some of the service related issues are aggravated if any change to process becomes a major fight. I am surprised that as many customer have been affected as have been given that for years the flight timetable has had to be provisional due to such issues as this.

    However there is an underlying truth that seems to be forgotten by those that seem to think that somehow unions can save jobs etc. Whatever job we do,including bankers, someone somewhere has to pay for it. If that business cannot sell enough of its products, services or whatever else it does to pays it's wages, suppliers, taxes and all it's other costs and still make money it will cease to exist. If the product it produces is not needed , poor quality or overpriced then the inevitable will happen and it doesn't matter who is to blame.

    All unions can do is get a it more of the share for their members, if the moneys not being made it's academic.

  • Comment number 52.

    42. At 4:14pm on 22 Mar 2010, C Sense wrote:

    "BA have to stand fast. Unite along with all the other large union, including the RMT and the civil service union, need to be brought into the real World."

    The real world? - is that where we all earn an annual salary of £743,000 (plus bonuses of course!).
    How can you patronise the unions by talking about 'the real world' when you appear to be so detached from it yourself!

    "History shows that the likes of the NUJ and the miners union did not win. For the sake of the country Unite must not win."

    For the sake of the country?? - oh so you mean every worker must work for 'whatever the master will pay you'

    ...well if thats the 'sake of the country' - then I say let it burn.

    Are you by chance another moaning private sector worker who has rolled over and shown his belly when the pay cuts came around?

    Did you cause the crisis then? - because I certainly won't be paying for a crisis I did not a) cause and b) benefit from.

    Still there has to be one (hunder thousand) born every minute to keep this system afloat...

  • Comment number 53.

    The whole purpose of privatisation was to encourage competition to keep prices competitve for the consumer.

    Well British Airways certainly has that but has no-one told their employees.

    It is several years since I flew with BA because of their atrocious record of strikes and the uncertainty of whether or not your luggage would follow you to the right destination.

    Prices are extremely competitive among the other airlines so if this dispute is not settled soon and BA falls into line with the practices of the other airlines it will be a final goodbye and thousands more lost jobs.

    There is no room for restrictive union practices in this day and age for everyone comes out a loser. Plenty of airlines in the wings waiting to pick up the pieces on their terms.

  • Comment number 54.

    44. At 4:21pm on 22 Mar 2010, sirrodneymarsh wrote:

    "I have a big holiday coming up later this year in Australia. The very first decision I made was to fly anyone but BA. That is what this uncertainty is costing them. "

    I'm sure BA are heartbroken - lets hope you haven't booked with one of the other airlines going bust

    What do you mean you didn't know? It's been all over the news...(just not our news)

    Phillipines
    http://business.inquirer.net/money/columns/view/20100315-258907/For-the-goad-times
    Japan
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8538347.stm
    Germany
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/lufthansa-facing-bankruptcy-consultants-say-1474890.html?cmp=ilc-n

    ...the list goes on and on and on.....I can't be bothered to continue it you will have to research it yourself - you can do it while flying to Australia.

  • Comment number 55.

    32. At 3:28pm on 22 Mar 2010, Leftie wrote:

    BA made an offer that Unite wanted to ask its members whether they would accept, and so BA immediately withdrew its offer. That’s not how to conduct relationships in a large airline. It's the reaction of a panic-stricken management.

    ..................................
    Not completely true. BA made an eleventh hour offer that was more than they would really like but they made it to avert a strike and on condition the strike was called off. The Union could not agree to that and later was no good, BA were at the final point of commiting to hiring other aircraft and staff. No agreement to delay the strike so the offer is withdrawn, as explained at the time.

    In the longer term I think ALL BA air staff will pay a heavy price for this action. When I was working we had a similar experience with our fleet of drivers. In the end we sold the trucks and made all the drivers redundant and bought in the services of an outside company supplying their own drivers and vehicles. Our transport problems were over. I can see this airline going the same way.

  • Comment number 56.

    ....of course when the grate British mupplets wake from their slumber and start complaining - they will simply be arrested - just like a Nazi state!

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8580344.stm

    Sleepwalking to slavery...

  • Comment number 57.

    Anyone who goes on strike should be deemed to be in breach of their contract of employment, with employers able to remove them for gross misconduct.

  • Comment number 58.

    45. writingsonthewall 'I mean you may as well make it look like ancient Egypt - for we are all SLAVES'

    There you go again, getting all excited etc, generalizing etc. You shouldn't take Exodus too much to heart, as it was probably just another hard luck fairy story to get asylum/sympathy/special treatment. The 'poor me' act is a favourite of narcissists, and has suckered many a protective male throughout history. But if you read The Old Testament carefully, you'll actually see that the authors were in fact a pretty wild, bloodthursty bunch, which is presumably how they managed to get around so much. Some are doing very well. Analyse the data.

  • Comment number 59.

    I agree with Leftie's reasonable comment: I think Mr. Walsh is probably a very good pilot, but he doesn't understand much about proper marketing tools and comprehensive brand management for which you need the appropriate education, experience and social skills. Especially when it comes to the leadership of a 40.000 plus work force.

    To be fair, Mr. Walsh might understand the meaning of cost efficiency, but I am absolutely sure that he is a constant frustration for all his marketing and communication staff who's professional advise and expertise he arrogantly and constantly overrules on a daily basis, that you must wonder, for what these expensive people get paid at the end of the day if they are apperently not needed at all!

    I think this CEO over-estimates himself and his capacities to an extent that is almost embarassing. Just look how he tries to window-dress his mistakes and to play the public as if we are all fools.

    Just look at his recently launched advertising campaign with its bloodless generic message which could easily stand for Thomas Cook as well as for the Eurostar, a cheaply and hastily blended footage-soup found in the dusty drawers of Tourist Councils from all over the world, with the "witty" slogan "BA can you get there" Chapeau, what a sharp thought!

    What's the message here, and above all, what's the message for Willy Walsh's customers and his work force in this unnecessary dispute?

    My personal guess: A "loner" who desparately tries to digress from his T5 opening disaster, which cost the company dearly, his 600 Mio GBP fines for price fixing or his billion loss of fuel hedging.

    But, to be fair, a loner on a mission. That is, to achieve what his predeccessors didn't achieve: to finally "break" the union at the expense of loyal customers, lots of savings (generated with the work force at the "front", an exceptionally gifted cabin crew) and a shocked, depreciated workforce. Shockingly backed up by an invisible, mute and - judging by its activity levels - probably equally overpaid board that calmly waits for the outcome before it sacks or promotes its loyal "pit bull." Sounds like a 19 th century's novel written by Charles Dickens, Emile Zola or Honore de Balzac, right? Unfortunately not, we are in Britain, and we are in the 21. century. But obviously, nothing has really changed. "Impositions instead of negotiations." Can you call that progress. Can you call that leadership? Can you call that management skills? No way!

  • Comment number 60.

    35 WOTW

    The purchase of gold I understand, but where does an off road motorcycle come into the equation?

  • Comment number 61.

    As I recall , BA tabled an offer which Unite agreed to put to their members. It was agreed that no strike dates would be announced until this process was completed. A few days later Unite announced the strike dates with no word of putting the offer to it's members. BA withdrew their offer. After much media hype being spouted and politicians calling for the strike to be called off ,Unite stated that if BA put the offer back on the table they would consider calling off the strikes. BA refused. It is obvious to anyone with half a brain that Unite is responsible for the current strikes. Regrettably most of the Media seem to ignore this fact. I wonder why ?

  • Comment number 62.

    Do people not realise the point of industrial action? If the employer does not appreciate the value of its workforce when they are working, workers have the right to make their value known their labour when it is withdrawn. Flights may be leaving but what is the standard of service now? Pilots/drivers (call them what you will) offering biscuits on a 13 hour flight from Shanghai? I think that's far worse than even a "bad day" at BA when things are normal.

    The whole episode highlights the plight of society in general, everybody is out for themselves. "Never mind the working persons stand, what does it mean for me, my ruined holiday! Woe is me!" I say to them, you may suffer for a short time but these people suffer every day they are at work.

    I only hope that the people that are complaining about strikers never have to go through a strike and this level of oppression from their employer themselves.

  • Comment number 63.

    47. Schwerpunkt 'She didn't need to, it was a dying industry. Notice how little runs on coal these days? Or would you suggest that we continue to keep all the pits open regardless of how unprofitable and polluting solely on the basis of it being somewhere to park a large number of people each day?'

    If it's such a dying industry, how come the Chinese are opening so many coal-fired power stations?

  • Comment number 64.

    BA is knackered

    Stupid=Management
    Stupid=Union

    Wouldn't trust either of them to sort out the proverbial you know what in the you know where

    Caught in the middle?

    Staff and travelling public

    BA have been given huge competitive advantages, and the likelihood is the passengers that have gone elsewhere, will stay elsewhere as the service is better

    There is also a lot of internal politics between Gatwick and Heathrow

    I am surprised you are surprised Robert

    It was obvious that the training up of non cain crew was to ensure that the company could 'fight ' the union in the medium term

    Both have played chicken and both have lost

    Now neither can back-down without losing face, and the posturing has basically meant that appalling working relationships must now be strained to the point where you have to wonder how on earth it will be possible to repair them

    How will those you have worked through this get on with those who haven't?

    They will hardly be best friends?

    Would you really want to fly in that atmosphere?

    Seems to me they deserve each other

    The union were told if they announced strike dates, the offer would be withdrawn

    They then announced strike dates, and the offer was withdrawn

    The company COULD have chosen to be 'peaceful' when the union said they would call off strikes IF that offer was put back on the table...

    The fact they didn't put it back on the table was prof that the company wants a fight

    So unsure why you are surprised?

    Lots of language about 'breaking the union' which is not really relevant.....

    Lots of talk about miners, which is pretty irrelevant, unless the BA is breathing apparatus

    I suppose this has to be Maggie's fault somehow, even if she left Office 20 years ago....I blame Queen Victoria myself

    If it is costing BA £7M a day, they also told the Union that these costs would be removed from the package, so long strike=lots of extra money being withdrawn from the offer to the cabin crew

    I think the union probably shade it in the stupidity stakes, close call though

  • Comment number 65.

    By the way...great title for the blog would have been Fight or flight

  • Comment number 66.

    Could Mr. Peston clarify his remark on the BBC Six O'Clock News jsut now: "and I'm afraid the way things are looking at the moment it does look as though the balance of power has shifted rather towards BA's management"? In particular, the choice of "I'm afraid", in the context of objective, impartial reporting.

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    I've heard words such as "scabs" uttered on live TV from "teamsters" and "unite", and reports of intimidation and fear of staff trying to go about their normal honest jobs over the strike lines.
    It begs the question of just who's bullying who? and why can't good honest staff feel free to make their own informed and individual decision?
    Unite and teamster should be utterly ashamed, as this is a throwback to a bygone era overcome, as victamising and unhealthy and not in the best interest of the british economy.
    I will continue to fly BA to show my support for Mr Walsh.

  • Comment number 69.

    Robert,

    I've just listened to you reporting on the 6 o'clock news about the BA cabin crew strike.

    Your conclusion on the matter was, in my view, unfairly biased in favour of BA.

    You stated that, in your view, power had now shifted toward the board of BA. Your reason for this? That BA had lost a small percentage of their total losses, for the first 9 months of the year, since the strike began. And that, as of this evening, they've notified the stock exchange of this figure.

    Well this sounds remarkably like you delivering a BA press release to the unsuspecting public, to me, and not like an impartial analysis of the situation in light of events. It may well be that BA are not going to back down, and it may well be that the unions aren’t either. But to say on a popular magazine news program, such as the 6 o'clock news, that BA have gained the upper hand because they have lost £21m thus far during the strike, is at the very least massaging reality.

    One could just as well say that a £21m loss in three days is an unsustainable leakage (considering their overall losses for the year) and that, should the union hold there nerve, enforced losses could soon be approaching £100m. I wonder what the boys at the exchange would say about that?

    You and I probably both know that this crisis is very much still up in the air at this point (please excuse the pun), and to paint it as BA gaining an edge because of an announcement they have made to the LSE - is, in my view, pure spin.

  • Comment number 70.

    60. whitp 'The purchase of gold I understand, but where does an off road motorcycle come into the equation?'

    He's a 'Max Max' or 'The Postman' fan?


  • Comment number 71.

    63.Statist, Possibly Schwerpunky should have clarified that as being within the UK and Europe. China does not have, at least yet, much natural gas or oil. I doubt Chinese miners are unionised or earn anywhere near even a UK minimum wage. That's assuming they deep mine and not open cast which can be cost effective in the UK. That's before we look at the huge health and disability costs to miners. If substantial deep mining restarts in this country I suspect it would be largely automatic/robotic and provide relatively few jobs.

  • Comment number 72.

    @ 62, navvynoo wrote:

    "..If the employer does not appreciate the value of its workforce when they are working, workers have the right to make their value known their labour when it is withdrawn. .... these people suffer every day they are at work. .... this level of oppression from their employer themselves."

    Having experienced very unpleasant industrial situations, I can understand the sentiment. However, unless I'm wrongly informed, BA stewards average £ 30k per year, twice as much as stewards on most other airlines, and a lot more than a lot of well qualified young people can hope for. Moreover, there are a huge number of waiters working in restaurants who don't make £ 7 per hour.

    Exactly who are the oppressed in this world? I'd be very happy to see Unite battling for the very badly paid and the pensioners. And if they are desperate to bring down some fat cats, they should have a go at the banks or the government.

  • Comment number 73.

    Dear Anthony, Mr. Walsh will be extremely grateful to you. Especially because he gives as good as nothing about customers needs or customer service at the moment or people who are doing an "honest" job.

    Why don't you just follow him to his next company he will drive into despair - and disrepair.

  • Comment number 74.

    It probably started with Chinese laundries on UK Naval ships.
    The obvious next step was for merchant ships to be flagged out.
    Then it was open season. Shipbuilding. Textiles. Clothing. Coal. Iron and Steel.
    Electronics quickly rose then got shipped out.
    Oil country capital goods was next. Developed for the north sea. Now built in Singapore.
    All to reduce costs. Globalization some will say. I have another term for it. Done on the cheap. I am truly amazed that BA still exists.
    How can a company with expensive workers compete against airlines whose workers are based in low wage economies?
    What is their edge? Are the planes better, faster, more comfortable, do they have anything to attract todays cost savvy consumers?
    Ah! They have slots. Lots and lots of slots! Takeoff and landing slots at Heathrow. Er. Doesnt that mean that the cabin staff will need to live locally in high cost England?
    At the moment.
    In the future the cabin staff will live in gang master provided housing.
    Globalization means everything is outsourced.
    Except the mortgage payments.
    Dont worry though. Once the country has been reduced to penury then we will be able to compete on equal terms with the third world.
    Fear not though Willie Walsh wont be affected.
    He will merely shrug his shoulders and blame it on globalization.
    What happens when we run out of this globe though?
    Ahh! I get it. Willie will have done his bit.
    Universal cheap labour leading to high profits.

  • Comment number 75.

    71. Flybymike 'I doubt Chinese miners are unionised or earn anywhere near even a UK minimum wage.'

    It's a socialist country.

    What do you think a soviet or union is?

    They manage their exchange rate too.

  • Comment number 76.

    72. @ WolfiePeters

    Another one who enjoys the deplorable joys of believing everything published in the Daily Mail (or like-a-likes)

    Let me tell you: The 30K salary is merely a PR joke. As far as I know, the average income of main cabin crew is more likely to be 15 k to 17k a year.

    Uncivil hours, no weekends off and not much control of their personal lives included.

    But hey, believe what you want, if you feel better. Even if it is not much more than a myth.

  • Comment number 77.

    75 Statist, I concede the union point, A little research is leading me to believe unionisation is extensive. If I have understood correctly there is only 1 very large (100 million +) members state sponsored union. Not sure how much of that's propaganda but bet GB wishes he'd thought of it.

  • Comment number 78.

    WolfiePeters:

    "Having experienced very unpleasant industrial situations, I can understand the sentiment. However, unless I'm wrongly informed, BA stewards average £ 30k per year, twice as much as stewards on most other airlines, and a lot more than a lot of well qualified young people can hope for. Moreover, there are a huge number of waiters working in restaurants who don't make £ 7 per hour."

    Let me start by saying I am crew and do not want to get into a personal debate, this is a "comment space" not a forum.

    Who exactly should be allowed to say what I should earn. Just because BA crew earn more than waiters, does that mean that they should earn less or waiters should earn more? And when is a waiter required (contractually) to risk his or her life in rescue of his customers? (Have we already forgotten the Boeing 777 that came down over Heathrow that January? BA039) How many waiters are trained in using a defibrillator, delivering a baby at 39,000 feet, fire-fighting at 39,000 feet and restraining unruly passengers? How many even give a fleeting thought to the idea that someone might try to blow them and their customers up today? How many have to go do places where regional stability is such that they are "encouraged not to leave their rooms"?

    Further, just because people think we should be paid less, do they also think they're ticket prices will come down? What will happen when airlines start making massive profits again?

    Most of all though, I am disgusted how many people blindly believe what the media and the BA tell them. SOME BA crew earn a large salary thanks to years of service, loyalty and rights of a past contract. Since 1997, the basic salary for new recruits is far less. I completed three successive tax returns and have post tax, never earned more than £20,000. Virgin crew are said to earn £14,400 but what is omitted is their allowances are paid on top and their travel and other perks are far better than BA's. Easyjet are said to earn £18,000. After all, Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's & Harrods food hall all sell similar items: bread, milk, cheese etc but their staff are not all paid the same.

    Finally, we are all for reform and restructuring, but that is the contract we signed and what we are, by law entitled to. This is a company that pays shareholders who took a calculated risk presumably drawn by the huge possible dividends. It stopped flying the flag when it stopped flying to so many UK cities.

  • Comment number 79.

    The political background is ideal for an attempt to break the union. It's no surprise the management are acting so belligerently

  • Comment number 80.

    Isn't the reality that the pensions' deficit at BA cannot possible be filled and in consequence BA is actually effectively a dead man walking, no matter what happens over this strike. Somehow BA has to offload its pensions' deficit, or die.

    (And perhaps/possibly the actuarial assessment of the pensions liability at BA is substantially underestimated due to the way that actuaries operate - only reluctantly, eventually and very tardily conceding that lifespan is lengthening.)

  • Comment number 81.

    # 43. At 4:15pm on 22 Mar 2010, brazilwatcher wrote:

    > I just had the impression that the important people on a
    > BA flight were those in the front of the aircraft
    > and "cattle class" just had to get on with it.

    At least the Air Stewards don't spit in your drink when
    you sit at the back!

  • Comment number 82.

    At 5:09pm on 22 Mar 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:

    "I have a big holiday coming up later this year in Australia. The very first decision I made was to fly anyone but BA. That is what this uncertainty is costing them. "

    I'm sure BA are heartbroken - lets hope you haven't booked with one of the other airlines going bust

    What do you mean you didn't know? It's been all over the news...(just not our news)

    Phillipines
    http://business.inquirer.net/money/columns/view/20100315-258907/For-the-goad-times
    Japan
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8538347.stm
    Germany
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/lufthansa-facing-bankruptcy-consultants-say-1474890.html?cmp=ilc-n

    ...the list goes on and on and on.....I can't be bothered to continue it you will have to research it yourself - you can do it while flying to Australia.


    Actually, I do know that the airline industry is in a parlous state and also didn' t think my point was that hard to understand and extrapolate out, but let's try again : I have decided not to use BA because of the uncertainty of their industrial relations, not because of their financial position. Hoew many others do you think have come to same conclusion as me ? Hundreds ? Thousands ? Tens of thousands ? The lack of my fare probably won' t break their heart. The lack of thousands of others might well, however.

  • Comment number 83.

    69. At 6:40pm on 22 Mar 2010, thediacritic wrote:
    "Robert,

    I've just listened to you reporting on the 6 o'clock news about the BA cabin crew strike.

    Your conclusion on the matter was, in my view, unfairly biased in favour of BA.
    ....

    You and I probably both know that this crisis is very much still up in the air at this point (please excuse the pun), and to paint it as BA gaining an edge because of an announcement they have made to the LSE - is, in my view, pure spin."

    Well said. Never mind the £100's of millions on price fixing, fuel hedging gone wrong and golden hand shakes, and many many other gaffes and 1000's of managers with nothing to manage!

    And "45. At 4:22pm on 22 Mar 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:
    ....and another thing - what's with all these moaning customers?

    Are you serious? - you don't purchase some god given right to travel on time (or at all) to your destination when you buy a plane ticket - didn't you read the small print there either??"

    Thank you for your honesty.

  • Comment number 84.

    57. At 5:31pm on 22 Mar 2010, truths33k3r wrote:

    "Anyone who goes on strike should be deemed to be in breach of their contract of employment, with employers able to remove them for gross misconduct."

    Yes - and everyone should be thankful for their sustinence wage, and lets get those kids working, down mineshafts, up chimneys, in workhouses.

    Yes, victorian Britain has it's appeal - forget all that freedom and nonsense.

    Hurrah!

  • Comment number 85.

    75. At 7:04pm on 22 Mar 2010, Statist wrote:

    "71. Flybymike 'I doubt Chinese miners are unionised or earn anywhere near even a UK minimum wage.'

    It's a socialist country. "

    I beg to differ, it is infact practicing state capitalism, where the markets are allowed to exist, but the state has the final say.

    We have a version of this here too now - the Chinese are a bit new to it and aren't as good at making it look like a free society.

  • Comment number 86.

    76. At 7:17pm on 22 Mar 2010, Bonvivant wrote:

    "Let me tell you: The 30K salary is merely a PR joke. As far as I know, the average income of main cabin crew is more likely to be 15 k to 17k a year.

    Uncivil hours, no weekends off and not much control of their personal lives included."

    ...and of course like most Britains - DEBTS TO PAY. It doesn't matter if they were earning 30k, they still would struggle to 'move up the ladder' by buying their own house near their common places of work (Heathrow, Gatwick).

    Debts have been disguising our diminishing wages for some time.

  • Comment number 87.


    "Well said. Never mind the £100's of millions on price fixing, fuel hedging gone wrong and golden hand shakes, and many many other gaffes and 1000's of managers with nothing to manage!"

    Oh we don't like to talk about those mistakes

    They're not good for PR - doesn't fit into the the 'greedy lazy workers' strategy - it's all about piddly litle people and their holidays. Never mind the cabin crew who have to serve these dribbly people, who arrive at your work in a foul mood and obnoxious because the airline industry brings a new meaning to the word 'late arrival'.

    The meja just want to talk about 'how much it hurts the country' like there's some sort of pathetic national pride at stake - because it's not like we'll ever win the world cup again is it?

    They broke the country
    Them, with their greed and their desire for riches without effort
    Those with their gambles and contradictory system which they adore so much

    ...and now they blame us

  • Comment number 88.

    WOTW,

    What's up? Working late tonight!

    Tell me, you often advocate something different but I am clueless on what that utopia is that you are yearning for. Please explain, after all you can't expect me to cross that bridge quicker if I don't know the reason why.

  • Comment number 89.

    60. At 5:39pm on 22 Mar 2010, whitp wrote:

    "35 WOTW

    The purchase of gold I understand, but where does an off road motorcycle come into the equation?"

    Accounts from the Russian people who lived there when the rouble crisis unfolded talk of "in the morning everything was fine, but by the afternoon every shop was completely empty"

    "EVERY fiat currency since the Romans first began the practice in the first century has ended in devaluation and eventual collapse, of not only the currency, but of the economy that housed the fiat currency as well."

    Sometimes you need to get out fast.

  • Comment number 90.

    andy,

    BA is a premier airline expecting its customers to pay a premium price for a premier service. Is it exceptable for the cabin crew etc to expect to receive at least a living wage for delivering what is "added value".

    Are the BA board of directors focused on the long term, or are they attempting to achieve short term targets?

    If so, some would call that a "failure of leadership".


  • Comment number 91.

    87

    pathetic

  • Comment number 92.

    85. writingsonthewall 'I beg to differ, it is infact practicing state capitalism, where the markets are allowed to exist, but the state has the final say.'

    That's how the Trotskyites (practically anarchists or free-marketeers if you look at their behavioural outcomes) write you know (cf. 'Tony Cliff'). They're just anti-statist because statism limits (regulates) the tribe's entrepreneurial opportunities. Stalin was on to them, ousted them, and that's why he became depicted as a bogeyman by the Wall Street mob etc.

    'We have a version of this here too now - the Chinese are a bit new to it and aren't as good at making it look like a free society.'

    Don't kid yourself, they are a lot smarter than these mobsters, and there are far more of them too.

  • Comment number 93.

    88. At 8:46pm on 22 Mar 2010, Uphios wrote:

    "Please explain, after all you can't expect me to cross that bridge quicker if I don't know the reason why."

    There is no one man who has the answers - and certainly not me, stop looking for leaders - that's how we got into this mess!

    I don't think we can stop events, all we can do is be prepared. Capitalism has had everything from us, and soon it will take the things we hold most dear, our schools, our hospitals and our communities.

    Never fear, human spirit will endure throughout, I am 100% certain of that. Maybe then the answers will be obvious to us all.

  • Comment number 94.

    89

    Please feel free to get out as fast as possible, as far as possible as soon as possible

    The sooner every blog doesn't consist of you running the UK down, moaning about everything the better

    Put a fish on one shoulder, and you will have a balanced meal

    No wonder they called it the looney left way back in the 80s, before it became politically incorrect to do so

  • Comment number 95.

    91. At 9:04pm on 22 Mar 2010, Kevinb wrote:

    "87

    pathetic"

    Did that hurt? Are you worried others might think the same - that wouldn't be a good sign would it - where would all the profit come from then?

    What is pathetic is the die hards who will cling to this system until the bitter end - refusing to see reality until it is upon them - at which point they will do what they do best - PANIC!

  • Comment number 96.

    92. At 9:08pm on 22 Mar 2010, Statist wrote:

    "Don't kid yourself, they are a lot smarter than these mobsters, and there are far more of them too."

    ...but all they have is those worthless debt notes we've been paying for all their goods with....mmwwaarrhahahahah

    ...by the time they figure it out - we'll be in Rio!

  • Comment number 97.

    The real tragedy here is that there are now so many aircraft, they cannot all land at the same time. There just isn't enough space.

    By my calculations, should a further 10% of flights be grounded we will all be crushed.

    That is why I have bought a Faberge Egg (real, that I can touch) and a Jetski to escape into the Atlantic with as the sky comes down upon Britain and the horror unfolds.

    Unite, BA, what have you done?

  • Comment number 98.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 99.

    97. At 9:16pm on 22 Mar 2010, FreedomIW wrote:

    "That is why I have bought a Faberge Egg (real, that I can touch) and a Jetski to escape into the Atlantic with as the sky comes down upon Britain and the horror unfolds."

    Stop leeching my ideas, there's not enough room in utopia for everyone!

    What's your jet ski run on?

    want to trade?

    I know where I can get twenty 747 aircraft - real cheap....

  • Comment number 100.

    78

    In my view, as per my earlier post, you are ill-served by both your employer and union

    I don't see much fun in your job for the next few years, and although I am neither pro/anti the strike, I wish you well


 

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