Experts: Walsh just wants to break union


Ninety-five employment relations experts have written to a national newspaper accusing British Airways boss Willie Walsh of union-busting.

They tell the Guardian that they can find no other reason for his stance over the airline’s industrial dispute with the Unite union.

The academics come from a range of universities from the UK and elsewhere, including Oxford University.

BA rejects the accusation, pointing out it has been in talks for months.

The letter states the signatories have expertise in analysing the causes of industrial disputes and the dynamics of strike action.

“It is clear to us that the actions of the chief executive… are explicable only by the desire to break the union which represents the cabin crew.”

It says that a victory for the company would bring “unilateral management prerogative” and an erosion of worker rights and democracy.

In a statement, BA set out several specific rebuttals of the charges.

The airline asked why, if strike-breaking was the aim, it had involved the TUC and the conciliation service Acas to try to reach a negotiated settlement with the union in the dispute with cabin crew.

Renewed strike

It also pointed out that Mr Walsh himself had spent three days at the TUC talking with union representatives.

BA is loss-making and facing stiff competition from other airlines and needs to cut costs.

Cabin crew, represented by the Unite union, held a three-day strike last weekend over proposed changes to pay and working conditions. They are preparing for a further four-day strike, set to begin this Saturday.

They have repeatedly called for further talks with BA, and have offered their own programme of cost-reductions.

The dispute has become increasingly fractious, with the union calling BA “bullying and contemptuous” towards its employees.

British Airways said it has lost at least £21m because of the action.