Letter to the Guardian:
The BA talks have been the most challenging set of negotiations I have ever been involved in, and my career as a negotiator spans some forty years. However, instead of supporting his union in successfully resolving this dispute, Les Bayliss presented a grossly distorted view of his own union’s role in it.
I make allowances for the fact that Les has never led industrial negotiations as a union official, and would certainly be unfamiliar with a dispute of this magnitude and complexity, but for him to argue that the dispute is “lost” and has “lowered our standing and reputation” is, to put it mildly, an unhelpful intervention from an official of a union which is in the midst of trying to resolve a difficult industrial dispute.
It does not lower our standing when we reflect our members’ views. We are a democratic union, not an industrial autocracy, which means if our members want to fight for their rights at work, they have a further right to expect their unions’ full support.
It is a matter of principle and honour within our movement that when any group of members wants to take action, they will get solidarity, not carping criticism, from their union. Solid support is what we Unite has given BA cabin crew and I, for one, am proud of that.
Nor is the dispute “lost”. The agreement on offer to cabin crew provides most of those sacked as a result of the dispute with the chance of getting their jobs back. And it sets a framework for removing punitive staff travel sanctions imposed on our members for taking lawful strike action to defend their jobs.
Whether the offer as a whole is good enough is a matter for our cabin crew members to decide, but BA has already restored some travel concessions without condition. If Les thinks this looks like a defeat, his industrial judgement is seriously open to question.
Les argues that we should not take industrial action lest it provokes the Tories to new anti-union laws. If we adopt his logic, then the government will have achieved its aim without the bother of legislation. This is a script written in Conservative Central Office, and it has no place at Unite.
Joint general secretary
Unite the Union