“break” the Unite trade union in a battle with cabin crew that could
erode workers’ rights across the UK, according to a joint declaration by 95
leading industrial relations academics.
In a letter to the Guardian,
professors from the London School of Economics and other universities accused
BA of having a radical agenda in a dispute that is set to enter its second
weekend of strikes.
Unite has pledged to suspend the
strikes if the BA chief executive, Willie Walsh, reinstates a peace offer that
was withdrawn two weeks ago. His failure to put the document on the table was
highlighted by the academics.
“It is clear to us that the
actions of the chief executive of British Airways, notwithstanding his protestations
to the contrary, are explicable only by the desire to break the union which
represents the cabin crew,” they wrote. “What other possible
interpretation can there be for Willie Walsh rejecting Unite’s acceptance of
BA’s previous offer or indeed of his marshalling of resources, including those
of bitter industry rival Ryanair, to undermine the action of his staff?”
A BA official said: “We have
been in negotiations since February 2009. We had been talking in the TUC for
three days solid before the strikes happened. Why would we do that if we wanted
to break the unions? Willie Walsh is one of the few chief executives to have
given out his mobile number to union officials so they can contact him day or
However, time is running out for
both sides to reach a deal, according to sources close to the talks, BA would
need to secure a compromise agreement by around 2pm today in order to have a
chance of reinstating its normal flight schedule.
The general secretary of the TUC,
Brendan Barber, has been attempting to find common ground between both sides
this week but so far there is no sign of a renewal of talks.