Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Three Strikes and Out?

Tonight we'll see the end of the BA strikes. A fact that could be overlooked since coverage of the strikes has dramatically decreased since they actually started happening. The main interest at the start of the strikes was how negatively they were going to affect the Labour party, with a fleeting interest in how it would affect BA and its customers. Fleeting, admittedly, might be too strong a word. But since it became apparent that it wasn't affecting the Labour party much at all everyone seems to have moved on.

Sympathy for the BA strikes was always going to be a hard sell to the average person. Given the economic circumstances some people don't have jobs, let alone have a reason to fly with BA. It has largely been seen to have affected the upper-middle class really.

Meanwhile it has been widely reported that the recession has been particularly damaging for the aviation industry and so it is unsurprising that companies like BA need to find a way to cut costs. Since the disputes emerged it was also reported that BA cabin crew get a much better deal than the cabin crew of most of their competitors. Whilst this is irrelevant to BA crew in that a pay cut is a pay cut (or pay 'freeze' in this case) it gives a poor impression of BA employees who are striking. What the media have essentially portrayed is trolley dollies being a bit annoyed that their long haul crews are being reduced by a single member, big deal, what do they do anyway besides handing out bad food and pointing to the exits, and that their already superior pay is being frozen.

This obviously isn't the case, or my opinion as such, but it is what people are seeing on the news. People are also seeing images of happy striking workers jumping off mini-buses in wolf suits like some kind of college field trip waving flags and banners provided by Unite. It'll be hard to win over the public with these images.

On top of this, Gordon Browns panicking, and indeed he was panicking, allegedly telling people that the election could well be lost if the strikes went ahead, appears to be in vain. As talks fell apart it became increasingly apparent that there were two people at the heart of the dispute, Willie Walsh and Tony Woodley, and in no time at all the strikes became almost entirely about them and who would win. This managed to over-shadow Labours inability to avoid strike action and Cameron's mudslinging over Unites involvement with the Labour party. It's even overshadowed the strikes themselves. Woodley has accused Walsh of trying to bring down the unions, which he denies but it's obviously true and Woodley has pretty much played into his hands and dug his own grave.

I could go into the dispute more but as I've already pointed out, nobody even cares anymore. The news has moved on. Labour have managed to avoid another potential disaster and are somehow still polling well. Cameron must be wondering how they have avoided another blow. But never fear because next up are the rail strikes. This will bother everyone. If they go ahead as planned they'll strike on the start of the new tax year, on Tom Harris from Britain-Votes.co.uk's birthday, oh, and the day that Brown is apparently due to announce the election. At least everyone will get to watch it announced on the television since they won't be going anywhere.

If it does go ahead then Labour will have a massive problem on their hands. The media perspective of these strikes is likely to be very different. To start, manual labourers losing their jobs, that won't sit quite so well. Chaos will ensue as hard-working citizens won't be able to travel, it'll be far worse than the snow disruption as there will be someone to blame and people are fond of blame. All in all it will be a bit of a disaster for Labour, unless the strikes run late or not at all.


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