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Time to sack striking BA staff

Anil Bhoyrul on why he believes airline's strikers should be fired.
British airways, BLOGS

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I watched last week with fascination how British Airways was brought to its knees by a three-day cabin crew strike.

It was the biggest business story in the West, and after months of negotiations between the trade union Unite and BA, no deal could be reached. So the 12,000 cabin crew voted to stop work for three days (which half of them did).

And reports suggest they could walk out again later this month.

The solution to this long running dispute has always seemed obvious to me — just sack all of the people who went on strike. Callous? Not really. Have you seen the numbers?

BA lost $500m in just nine months last year and is projected to lose up to $1.5bn in 2010. Its boss Willie Walsh, who I have a lot of admiration for, came up with a cost-saving plan that would see a pay freeze for two years.

But no, the cabin crew didn’t like that, so they decided to go on strike and wreak havoc with people’s holiday plans.

Are they not living in 2010? Aren’t we not just coming out of the worst recession in living memory? Are they really that selfish they think that a pay freeze for two years, when a company is losing over $1bn a year, is not on? Who do they think they are?

I had coffee with two maids last week who live and work in the same building as me. They told me they earn $300 a month, and work seven days a week, 24 hours a day. They get one day off a month and that is only between 9am and 5pm. One of them has applied for a job as cleaner in another company, which will pay $40 less each month but also means she will get one full day a week off. She told me it would be her dream to get this job but around 1,000 other maids have applied for it.

Then I hear that BA staff won’t accept a pay freeze. (yes I know there were other points at dispute but the pay freeze was at the heart of it).

Okay it’s not a fair comparison but the point is that BA’s cabin crew have become a law unto themselves. They no longer live in the real world. On the few times I have travelled the airline, I have found most to be over the hill, overpaid, unhelpful, rude and arrogant. Even before the strikes I have often wondered how they still have a job.

Walsh should do the right thing and sack the lot of them. Sure, he might get tonnes of heat for a couple of weeks and everyone will hate him but give it a month and the losers he fired will be forgotten and BA can start to become a great airline once again.

Written by Anil Bhoyrul, editorial director, ITP.

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