Sunday, March 21, 2010

Who're the Real Bullies? BA Go All Out in Dirty Tricks Campaign

Right-wing newspapers and bloggers have been making a lot out of allegations of intimidation by picketers against BA scabs. These claims have been put forward by an unnamed representative of the 'Professional Cabin Crew Council' (PCCC), which claims to represent those members of the Cabin Crew who are fed up with Unites' militancy [sic] but in reality is a front organisation for the BA management and as such is unable to obtain official recognition as an independent trade union.

What's amazing is the utter transparency of the accusations made, and the (perhaps not-so-shocking) complete lack of journalistic standards in misrepresenting the reality of such 'intimidation' and in failing to undertake even the most rudimentary research into the reliability of the accuser (or, perhaps more likely, wilfully ignoring its revelations).

We are told this woman who has betrayed her co-workers has been the victim of “meaningful looks” from pro-strike co-workers and she then goes on to make an entirely baseless and irresponsible assertion “But when you know the militants know where you live. Where your children are. Then you start to wonder exactly what they are capable of. Just how far they might go.” This despite the fact that she admits no actual threats have been made!

This is just one small part of a dirty tricks PR campaign by an employer against its workers without equal in recent memory. The BBC reported Saturday that more planes were flying than expected (implying that large numbers of workers were crossing picket lines and going into work), what they failed to mention was that many of them were empty – ghost flights to keep up appearances of normality. These tactics accompany false figures which the company released to the media.

There is a repeating theme developing on the right-wing blogosphere. Tory b**ger Iain Dale accuses the striking cabin crews of “thuggery”, the professional politically motivated arsehole and angry Libertarian self-parody at The Devil's Kitchen calls them “silly cunts” and calls for them to be sacked. Well, Willie Walsh is well ahead of him on that count, a point I'll develop later. It seems that in Tory land to withhold one's labour is to become a thug – let their be no mistake a worker who cannot withhold his or her labour is nought but a slave (with the 'option' of unemployment, of course...).

The strike ballot at the end of last year saw similar dirty tricks employed, BA bosses refused to provide the union with a list of those who had accepted voluntary redundancies thus making it impossible to exclude them from the ballot and hence impossible to hold a 'legal' ballot.

The Torygraph and the BBC are not alone in their parroting of BA propaganda, the entire media (except, of course, the usual suspects) have been jumping at the chance to wage an ideological war on the cabin crew and Unite. Beyond the typical distrust of notions such as solidarity and collective action which so thoroughly run against the hegemonic individualism of our times, there is a clear political motivation for most of the media: by demonising Unite they demonise the Labour Party by association, in what appears to be a mounting campaign in that regard. See Though Cowards Flinch for an excellent rebuttal of this 'Union Modernisation Fund' non-scandal the Tories have been mindlessly regurgitating.

Yet the media, ever eager for a story of Labour Movement “bullying” have been extremely quiet about the intimidation campaign being waged by the BA management against those considering joining the picket lines instead of scabbing. Striking cabin crew are afraid to reveal their identities on camera, forcing the Unite to rely on full-time organisers as opposed to those on the shop floor for press communications.

Any suggestion that these fears are exaggerated should be dispelled by the suspension or disciplining of 38 pro-strike cabin crew employees on, to say the least, dubious grounds.

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