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Saturday 20 March 2010

First Strike

So British Airways’ cabin crew have gone on strike. Union members are demonstrating and picketing around Heathrow, but there are no scenes of angry passengers for the broadcast media to show, mainly because BA gave them notice of the upcoming disruption and they revised their plans accordingly. The flights that have been confirmed as running are indeed running.

What of the political fallout? Government ministers have made suitably disapproving noises, and there have been the usual pleas for wiser heads to prevail, but ultimately there is no power to coerce the strikers back to work. The main weapon deployed by opposition parties is that Unite, the union representing the strikers, pays money via its political fund to Labour, but those hoping for a voter backlash may be disappointed.

Why so? Well, BA strikes have been a regular feature of holiday periods, whatever the stripe of the governing party, for some years. And the number of swing voters likely to be swayed by this action may not even show up in the polls: most folks jetting off over Easter will be flying by charter or budget carrier, and they don’t carry the inherited baggage of BA’s staff perks, nor their woeful industrial relations record.

So if Young Dave and Corporal Clegg think they’re on a winner with this strike, they think wrong. But Pa Broon and his gang aren’t out of the woods yet: on the railways, there is the potential for a signallers’ strike, and that could be bad for the Government. More and more people travel by rail nowadays, including commuters for whom the rising cost of season tickets is not matched by any guarantee that they will even get a seat for their journey.

The potential for another wave of action to match that of early 1979 is limited, but the trains will not run if there is nobody to signal them. And if folks cannot get to work, and earn their crust, then they might just change their minds about who gets their vote.

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