Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Union Folly

I'm thinking of going away over Christmas like millions of other people around the world. I could go and see relatives, go and see in the New Year somewhere more exotic. As I scour the websites and check out prices, the bottom line will now be anybody but BA.

Is that what the Unite union and their disgruntled members were trying to achieve? It seems to be. BA has had a succession of PR disasters in recent years and is struggling in an industry which seems rarely if ever to make a profit. So what does this union do, claiming to be working for its members? It calls a strike at one of the busiest times of the year with only a few days to go meaning that a million people's plans are put in doubt with little or no time to rebook. They openly admit that they have called this strike action so as to cause the maximum disruption, although they have made a mealy mouthed apology. You are working in a customer service industry for god's sake.

Sometimes you can only hang your head in despair at the actions of union leaders. Yes BA staff have some legitimate complaints and should air them, but generally speaking they are amongst the best rewarded with the best perks in the entire industry, an industry that is ultra competitive. It is an act of the most supreme folly, just as it was with the Royal Mail strike a few weeks ago, to damage the company further at this time when it needs to be operating at maximum efficiency. There is money to be made at this time of year and yet the company will be reducing services and offering refunds along with profound apologies to disgruntled customers who will think twice about ever booking with them again. They will take this attitude not necessarily because the schedules or service are bad - they're actually very good, expecially if you have had the misfortune of flying with Ryanair - they will take this attitude because they will not trust BA to deliver. That is a disaster.

Presumably negotiations will now take place in the hope of securing some last minute deal. But wouldn't it be sensible and mature for the staff to now say, okay we will work over Christmas (rather than lose shedloads of money they must surely need by withdrawing their labour) because we want to show that we believe in this airline and want it to succeed. That is also what the union if it really has their best interests at heart should be telling them rather than calling a damaging strike. Perhaps then management could reciprocate by putting all of their cards on the table and negotiating in good faith. Either way to close down an airline that is about to move a million people over a few days and create more of those huge queues and piles of stranded baggage is going to do nobody any good but BA's rivals. I would happily fly with BA this Christmas. I would rather do so. But I need to be sure that I will get there before I take out my debit card and complete the booking.

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