Unite BA strike ballot: an accident waiting to happen?

Just been watching Newsnight’s take on the High Court’s decision to injunct Unite from sending BA cabin crew on strike. There was a bit of discussion about whether this had anything to do with the Unite general secrtary election but it was all speculation.

What’s a bare fact though is the following: the High Court granted the injunction on the basis that the ballot included workers who were leaving the company.

Frnkly I’m surprised this hasn’t happened before. Unite has long-standing difficulties in keeping track of its membership. Last year its annual return to the trade union certification officer showed that over 300,000 names had been wiped – much more than redundancies would allow for. Some of those names had undoubtedly left the union, died or both. Addresse don’t always get changed and email addresses are in short supply – less than a quarter of the membership have valid email details on record.

So keeping track of who’s in the bargaining pool and who isn’t is by no means an easy task, and BA spotted an opportunity. None of this can deny, of course, the overwhelming mandate for strike action delivered by the 92 per ceent strike vote. But time and again, when strike plans fail, they fail on a technicality.  It’s no indictment of Unite’s industrial relations policy to say that better record keeping would have prevented this.


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One Response to “Unite BA strike ballot: an accident waiting to happen?”

  1. Rep Says:

    This was nothing to do with the Unite GS election and it should have been left that way, i.e. to those officers and members directly involved but it wasn’t…but if an individual wants to seek publicity he should also be there to mop up the negative publicity when it all goes wrong.

    12 strike days would have made a good campaign slogan, but DS was right, it did appear to be “over the top” when compared to the norm.

    The issue of keeping track of members is not confined to Unite alone that is why the ballot list is given to the reps on the ground, where they exist, so that they can check the information and the list can be amended. Members could also be helpful by advising the union of a change of address.

    However, this appears to be not about record keeping, but about identification. In hindsight a simple poster /letter to members advising them that if they were affected by the voluntary redundancy they should not participate in the vote may have been seen as a “reasonable” action by the union, especially as attempts to gain that information through the employer had failed.

    BA did not spot an opportunity, they created or were gifted one, and ballots do fail on “technicalities” that’s why they should always be checked for accuracy.

    All is not lost, this issue has not gone away and unless a negotiated settlement can be found, a ballot and industrial action will follow, but let’s hope that an agreement can be achieved for both the employers and member’s sake and I wish the union’s officers and reps who are directly involved the best of luck in achieving this.

    Keep focused.

    S. Prind

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