Unite seeks to internationalise British Airways dispute

Unite seeks to internationalise British Airways dispute

Unite is expected to meet representatives from its American counterpart Teamsters later today, as the trade union attempts to internationalise its dispute with British Airways.

The first planned strike by British Airways cabin crew is due to begin on Saturday, with staff expected to down tools for three days.

A second strike is scheduled to last for four days from March 27th.

While Teamsters – the largest transport union in the US – acknowledged the meeting was due to take place, the group’s role in any industrial action remains unclear.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) – which represents 1.4 million workers in the United States and Canada, of which 40,000 work in the aviation industry – said it would “stand in solidarity” with Unite.


“The Teamsters are an active member of the International Transport Workers Federation,” read a statement from the group.

“ITF affiliates around the world are mobilising to support British Airways workers in their fight for passenger safety and worker respect.”

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is a global union federation of transport workers’ trade unions. Last year the ITF had 654 member organisations in 148 countries, representing a combined membership of 4.5 million workers.

International Perspective

Unite has appeared on the back foot in recent days, following a decision to strike.

Prime minister Gordon Brown has branded the strike “deplorable”, supporting transport secretary Lord Adonis, who has previously suggested the action was “totally unjustified”.

British Airways has also confirmed it will operate up to 60 per cent of planned departures during the strike, including all flights from London City Airport.

Earlier this week Unite asked British Airways to return to the negotiating table, in an effort to avoid strike action.

The airline said today it was “sad” to see Unite “seeking backing from trade unions overseas to support its unjustified strike against an iconic British brand”.

Public support has also swung largely behind the airline, with as many as 30,000 passengers facing disruption on each day of the strike.

Political Perspective

The Conservative party has been quick to point out Unite is the major fundraiser for the Labour movement, with the proposed strikes possibly casting a negative light on the government in the run up to an expected May 6th general election.

The shadow transport secretary, Theresa Villiers, has also joined the fray, and argued Unite was “seeking to make things worse and internationalise the dispute”.

“I gather the aim in talking to these other trade unions is to seek to block BA flights from landing during the period of the dispute,” she concluded.