Many critics have opined that Unite may be taking a more militarist view on strike action, and have questioned if they are prepared to threaten strike action that could have resulted in the closure of six airports over a 1 % (or 1.5% depending on who you speak to) pay increase what will they do when the cuts to the public sector are ushered in later this year?
Was the strike threat (and notably the reluctance to confirm whether any strike action would fall over the August bank holiday weekend) perhaps part of a sophisticated strategy to demonstrate that they are a force to be reckoned with as the sword of Damocles starts to hover over the public sector? I am curious whether the strike threat was a sign that the biggest Union in the UK and Ireland was dipping it’s toe into the sea of unrest to test the waters for further industrial action.
We should also question in what circumstances the public will support future industrial action. I would suggest that the majority would support Union members who propose to strike over fears about their working conditions and public safety, such as the action proposed by the RMT Transport Union over conditions on the London underground. In contrast the battle for hearts and minds may be difficult to win over a pay increase (no matter how small); especially if hardworking families who have waited to find last minute holiday deals discover that their travel plans may be hampered. It is imperative that we recognise the categories of staff who were balloted for the industrial action. We are talking about security staff, engineers, fire-fighters and support staff at BAA’s six airports, and these important workers are integral to the aviation industry, specifically in relation to security, and they should be listened to.
In my view we have to be careful not to venture into the realms of Union bashing, as the Unions carry out an important role, particularly by publicizing important issues which affect their members. For example, Unite are currently promoting a campaign to try and prevent baggage handlers in the aviation industry suffering from muscular skeletal injuries, and the RMT Union are raising awareness of safety concerns on the Tube tracks.
For further comments on this issue please follow this link to my article published on politics.co.uk.