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(en) Catalist #8 - Direct action gets the goods - Who says the wildcat strike is dead?

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 23 Oct 2003 09:06:31 +0200 (CEST)

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When British Airways check-in
staff promptly walked out in July,
after management sought to impose a
swipe card-based clocking-on system, they
proved the power of the unofficial action.
The workers were, of course, right to be
sceptical about the bosses' motives. The new
"big brother" system would be used to monitor
working hours, so bosses could even start
sending people home during quiet periods,
without pay. This would particularly affect the
mainly women workers' ability to manage family
commitments around working hours. Already,
many are forced to do `tarmac transfers', passing
children between partners at shift changes. This
is only possible if people know their shift
patterns 3 months in advance, as at present.
Check-in workers only earn 200-240 per week,
so paying for child care is not really an option.
The mainstream media gave their usual
sympathetic opinion that the action was not only
illegal, but counter-productive. Little mention
was made of BA's 1.8 billion of reserves and
136 million profit in the last financial year, all
from exploiting BA workers.
The unofficial action demonstrated the power
and bravery of the check-out workers. It led to
360 flights being cancelled, and about 80,000
passengers delayed, not to mention tens of
millions of pounds in costs for BA. The strike
ended when the unions and BA agreed that the
swipe card introduction would be delayed until
September, following further consultation.
The role of the trade union leaders during the
strike was, of course, appalling. However, the
workers are talking of further action, if
negotiations do not go according to plan. Having
got their fingers burnt this time, maybe BA will
be more circumspect when it comes to future
negotiations. Or maybe the profits to be made
through the new clocking-on system will
outweigh their fear of further strike action.
Only direct action by the workers themselves
will ensure success; it was the so-called `illegal'
worker-controlled walk-out which worked last
time and it will be a similar worker-controlled
action which will work next time.

The newly updated stuff your boss
leaflet on basic work rights - get free
copies from:
SolFed, PO Box 1095, Sheffield S2 4YR.

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