Comment at end
22nd May 2010
Watch this BBC news video here and if you’re old enough, think of what it reminds you.
At around 20 seconds into this video, on the extreme left, where else(?), you will see a headbanger. He’s not the only one.
Willie Walsh, BA’s chief executive, is seen calmly making a call on his mobile phone, surrounded by bellowing protesters. The contrast between his composure and their disgusting behaviour could hardly be more stark.
This kind of semi-anarcho behaviour reminds me of the days before the Trades Unions were put back in their box. Yes, Margaret Thatcher started to stuff them in there, and not Tony Blair. But he kept up the work, and loosened their influence on the Labour party, though not as far as he had hoped to, thanks to Prescott and others on the left.
I imagine our two new prime ministers are so pleased he did as much as he did. Now governments of all persuasions are not held to ransom by such as these.
I’ll take the liberty of speaking on behalf of our two prime ministers. They’re hands-off these days and relieved to be so. And anyway, they don’t like to remind us how the world has changed for the better since 1997. No scars on their backs. (Blair 1999)
So, thank you Mr Blair for taking it on behalf of the rest of us. And for keeping the animals in their cages. (More Blair quotes here, up to April 2002.)
I’m trying, and I have a long memory, but I can’t recall anything like this rabble in the last 13 years of the Labour government.
The individuals surrounding Willie Walsh in such a threatening manner are from the Socialist Workers party. Very few of them, I imagine, are cabin crew. Very few of them could hold down a job on any aeroplane, where good public relations are required.
“Talks between British Airways and union leaders were brought to an abrupt end when protesters stormed the meeting.
Dozens of demonstrators from the Socialist Workers Party breached security at the London offices of the conciliation service Acas.
It is not known how much progress was made in the last-ditch talks aimed at averting strikes by cabin crew.
The latest strikes follow a long-running dispute over jobs, pay and working conditions.
The two sides sat around the negotiating table for more five hours on Saturday before the protesters interrupted the meeting.
More than 100 demonstrators gathered outside the building, saying they were there to show solidarity with BA cabin crew.
Banners and shouting
Those who made it to the 23rd floor, where the talks were taking place, came face to face with BA chief executive Willie Walsh and Tony Woodley, joint leader of Unite.
Mr Woodley angrily remonstrated with the protesters telling them to “shut up”.
The talks had to be abandoned amid scenes of chaos and Mr Walsh had to be escorted by police from the building.
The protesters, many holding up Socialist Workers Party banners, stayed in the building until they were ejected by police officers.
BA cabin crew who are Unite members are set to begin a five-day strike on Monday, with more strikes to follow from 30 May and 5 June.
Before the talks began, Mr Woodley accused BA bosses of having a “petty, vindictive” attitude.
He said the current deal offered by Mr Walsh could not be accepted by his members.
But Mr Walsh, who has said the company will do everything it can to reach an agreement with Unite before Monday, has blamed Bassa, the Unite branch representing crew, for the failure to reach a deal.
“The issue is that the trade union branch at the heart of this dispute – Bassa – has not accepted and will not accept that negotiation is the way forward and that is regrettable but is the truth,” he said on Friday.
Mr Woodley denied Bassa was the problem, and said he had recommended the rejection of the latest deal to union members.
“Mr Walsh says that we cannot deliver a deal. He is right about that because the deal on the table cannot be delivered so he has got to change,” he added.
‘Issue of trust’
BBC business correspondent Joe Lynam said the two sides were very close to reaching an agreement but there was still a big question over the issue of trust.
Chief Acas conciliator Peter Harwood expressed optimism about an agreement, but warned that if a deal was not secured this weekend there was “every possibility that additional pressures on both sides will ensue which will make a final resolution more problematic”.
Unite say the main stumbling blocks now are the travel perks that were taken away from members who went on strike in March and disciplinary action which has been taken against more than 50 of its members.”