Politics [1] | Howards Way [2]

Politics: BA has no god-given right to exist and its survival is in doubt

Contributed by editor on Mar 25, 2010 - 08:50 AM

Howards Way [3]

Howard's Way.... a weekly column from the Rt. Hon. Michael Howard QC. MP.

25 March 2010

I hope that by the time you read this the BA strike will be over. But that is probably a vain hope.

I also hope that it will be the last strike of its kind. That may seem an extraordinary and perhaps foolishly unrealistic thing to say. So let me try and explain what I mean.

There is little doubt that many of those who work as BA cabin crew feel a genuine sense of grievance. Many of the terms and conditions under which they have worked for years are being changed. Some of the changes clearly work to their disadvantage. Traditionally trades unions exist to try and protect workers from changes of this kind and to defend the rights and privileges which have been won over the years. So to a large extent Unite, the trade union involved in the strike, is just doing what trades unions have always done, though with less success in recent years than previously.

And there, I suggest, lies the key to the reason why I doubt that the current strike will succeed and why I hope it will be the last of its kind.

The world is changing and changing fast. BA faces fierce competition on all its routes. It has no god-given right to exist. Its survival is in doubt. The strike will do it significant damage and make its prospects of survival less secure.

I always try and fly BA. At the beginning of the year, at the time of the earlier threatened strike, I went to Canada on Air Canada – because I wasn’t sure BA would be flying. Since then I have gone back to BA but many others won’t.

During a radio discussion on the value of the perks available to BA cabin crew, including heavily discounted flights, I heard one BA employee, who was on strike say that they weren’t much use because most of her colleagues made these journeys using lower cost airlines anyway. The irony of this remark was lost on her but that could hardly be a more vivid example of the need for BA to become more competitive.

I can hardly conclude this article without making some reference to the political influence of Unite, which is the Labour Party’s principal paymaster having contributed £11 million to the Party over the last few years. That hardly inspires confidence in the Government’s ability to fulfil the role of honest broker.

But I hope good sense will prevail and the strike will not continue. And I hope BA will survive and thrive and fly us safely to our destinations for many years to come. 

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