I have just watched the Unite press conference at which this increasingly militant union announced the results of its ballot of BAA workers. So, at a time of austerity, pay restraint and having just come through the worst recession in 70 years, this union opts to go on strike at a particularly important time for the industry (ie the peak of the holiday season). Add to that the impact of the BA strike (by Unite) and the Icelandic ash cloud which grounded the industry for ages earlier this year, and you have a sickly industry that could do without this potential strike. Industrial action at this point will simply damage the industry further. Ultimately, it will mean more job losses. Unite have climbed aboard Lemming Airways.
The turnout was 50%. We have no way of knowing what the views are of those who did not vote. Ultimately it is their own responsibility to ensure they take part in their own democratic processes. But a minority of the workforce able to dictate to the majority by default is a worrying situation. Furthermore, the action of these trade unionists will directly affect the jobs of vastly more people working at airports who are not connected with the dispute. Look at the huge numbers of workers in catering or retail outlets in airports. And then of course there is the disruption to holiday plans of ordinary members of the public. None of these people were consulted or balloted but they stand to lose by the actions of others.
It may now be time to look at threshholds in industrial ballots. Perhaps strike action should only be permitted if say 45% or 50% of all balloted members vote for industrial action as opposed to a simply majority of those returning their ballot papers. This will help to counterbalance what are effectively one sided campaigns within unions during a ballot. A trade union leadership in favour of industrial action will bring out the pro-strike vote. Without a balancing anti-industrial action campaign within the union it is hardly surprising that the turnout is relatively low as those opposing strike action are less likely to vote.
I hope the BAA does not take place but given the bullish attitiude of the union leadership exhibited at their press conference, I am not confident that peace will prevail.