Thursday, 18 November 2010

BA union leader predicts fresh strikes in January

A leader of the British Airways cabin crew - who have been resisting changes to their working conditions for more than a year – is predicting they will be back on strike in January.
Duncan Holley, the secretary of the BA union branch, was speaking to The Workers United after addressing a meeting of the Manchester Industrial Relations Society.
He told an audience of more than 50 people – mainly students - the story of the dispute which has led to him and other union activists losing their jobs.
Cabin crew union reps recently rejected a deal that had been negotiated between BA and leaders of Unite.
Holley said after the meeting that if the airline’s bosses didn’t agree to four demands a fresh ballot for industrial action would start in about two weeks with strikes likely in January.
The demands are:
• Returning staff travel concessions to cabin crew who went on strike earlier this year with no loss of seniority.
• Reimbursing cabin crew who had wages deducted when they were sick on strike days.
• Taking the cases of union members who were disciplined because of the dispute to the government arbitration service ACAS.
• Withdrawing plans for an agreement which would allow BA management to impose new terms if negotiations lasted more than eight weeks.
During his address Holley had criticised some elements in Unite’s leadership for not supporting the cabin crew strongly enough - particularly those who were previously in the Amicus union.
He said later that he had voted for Len McCluskey in the election for Unite’s general secretary – which ends tomorrow (Friday) – and was confident that if McCluskey wins he would back the strikers and organise a ballot quickly.
Holley is the secretary of the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA) – a branch of the bigger union. He worked as a steward for 35 years before he was sacked in May.
The meeting was at the Manchester Metropolitan Univsersity business school.


  1. Duncan Holley has no interest in resolving the current dispute with BA. The BASSA branch was due to hold elections atthe end of 2009. These elections were then deferred until the current dispute was settled. He gets a percentage of the members dues. Rough estimates put this at £60,000 p.a. This is on top of any salary earned. He was sacked by BA for refusing to work. He has either directly or indirectly placed cabin crew members in a position where they could be dismissed if they followed his advice/directives. A specific example is around the refusal to close window blinds - a recommendation that, had members carried it out, would have resulted in their instant dismissal and Unite being sued by BA. Within 24hrs of BASSA issuing their notice on this, Unite rushed out a letter of repudiation.

    Unite have not been overly supportive of cabin crew because in the greater scheme of things, protecting the favourable terms and conditions of a collection of middle class men and women is somewhat lower on the priority list than trying to prevent workers from being made redundant or have their pay slashed. The Cameron Cuts are of greater import to Unite than the ditherings of a bunch of backbiting flight attendants. In addition. Unite are well aware that BASSA and their sister union CC89 have managed to link virtually every cause imaginable into the current dispute. This means that there are no issues that they will be able to put foward for new strike action that will hold water and gain mass support. The consequence is that whilst BASSA may talk about calling for further strike action, in reality if they do, under TULRCA such action will be unprotected and strikers liable to dismissal. Moreover, Unite could be sued for consequential loss.

    So once again Mr Holley is either being economic with the truth or is leading his members into very dangerous waters.

    Final comment. BA have had over six months to hone their contingency plans in the event that cabin crew walk out again. It is now self evident that BASSA's actions have no support within the wider Unite community that work at BA - look at the number of staff who volunteered to operate as cabin crew. Any strike is almost bound to be ineffectual given the thousands of crew who have deserted both Unite branches. (at the last publised count in August 2010 BASSA's membership was down over 1000 across a six month period) Around 25% of cabin crew are now non-unionised and the figure is rising.

  2. Hi Duncan here, couldn't let the above go unchallenged although I see the author does not have the bravery to post in their own name.
    Firstly elections were not deferred - they were held. I was returned unopposed.
    Secondly my honorarium which is based on membership numbers works out at about £50,000 per annum but ever since I took over as secretary in 1998 I have given half of that back to the branch each month - in fact Unite do it at source so I never see that half.

    I think by those two gross distortions of the truth the author has revealed themselves to be either incredibly misinformed, malicious or just in the employ of the union busting firm hired by BA.

    Rgds Duncan

  3. Well said Duncan xx. Keep up the good fight xx

  4. There are a lot of people backing BA crew this time. BA management are too pig ignorant for their own good and are destroying the BA brand.

  5. Duncan is worth every penny AND MORE

  6. I'm sure Duncan is worth every penny that he takes from BASSA, but the only niggling worry I have is that his repudiation of the anyonymous poster at the top of this thread didn't drive at the heart of what was said.

    Duncan, you didn't scotch the allegation over window blinds or refute the suggestion that any strike action will gain mass support. The ballot result suggests that there is not wholehearted support behind this issue. The anonymous poster may have got the facts wrong about the election of officers, but s/he was not far off on the estimate of what you were entitled to draw as an honorarium, even if you don't take it. They also seem to be reasonably accurate in the assertion on the level of support.

    Regardless of the motives behind this anonymous poster, I am concerned that you did not provide any kind of response to the bulk of what was said.

  7. I share Janice's concerns on Duncan's assertions. I have heard that there is some attempt to smear BASSA over their finances, which is typical tory behaviour. The bit that worries me is that the anonymus poster seems to have been uncannily accurate about the ballot result as well as the subsequent outcome. I've been a union supporter for 35 years so am concerned to see the possibility that our great movement could be possibly brought down by a combination of tory legislation and branch mismanagement. I'd like reassurances that my dues to Unite are not being frittered away because of local incompetence.

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