15
Dec
09

On air: Is striking selfish?

“The 12 days of misery” is what the newspapers are calling it. Yesterday British Airways cabin crew voted to strike for 12 days over the Christmas period starting on December 22. Nearly one million passengers will be affected as they try to get to loved ones for Christmas and take the holiday many have saved all year for.

As well as stranding passengers, the strike will cost the already financially troubled company hundreds of millions of dollars. You can read the full story of what’s behind the strike here.

It’s not just happening in Britain:
– In Australia postal workers are striking for two days, just as the Christmas postal rush hits its height.

– Four hundred thousand Indian public sector bank workers are due to walk out tomorrow over a proposed merger.

Hospital workers in rural Nova Scotia have just voted to walk out over pay demands, but interestingly, they say they will hold off until January because of the swine flu pandemic.

There’s uproar in Britain over the BA strike. One word comes up again and again in comment pieces and blog posts about it – selfish. Even celebrity blogger Perez Hilton has weighed in against the unions.

Is striking selfish?

Collective action like striking has achieved many things in the past like helping women move towards equal pay.

The power of strikes is obviously in how much they inconvenience a company… but what if thousands of customers are affected as well? Is it selfish to put the demands of one group of people — striking workers — over another? Or is this the only way that people who may not have a voice otherwise can achieve their demands.

Does it make a difference if it’s simply a company’s profits that are affected, as opposed to, say hospital patients or children in school?

Many people have pointed out that BA cabin crew get paid up to twice the industry standard. The company has made a loss of nearly $500 million in the last six months and as pretty much everyone acknowledges needs to cut some costs in order to stay afloat.

In tough economic times do you have sympathy for people who strike to hold onto their conditions? Or does economic reality mean the axe has to fall somewhere?


116 Responses to “On air: Is striking selfish?”


  1. 1 Roy, Washington DC
    December 15, 2009 at 15:35

    Striking over Christmas is very selfish, as they are intentionally disrupting the holidays for many, many people. I certainly hope they don’t think this is going to sway public opinion in their favor.

  2. December 15, 2009 at 15:39

    I feel that this question is one of proportions and seeming fairness. If a group is striking for basic rights or decent wages, and is barely earning enough to survive, and if their particular industry is more than capable of meeting a compromise while still being profitable, then it is not selfish. If, however, the group earns FAR ABOVE the standard of where they live, and are anywhere from financially “comfortable” to outright rich, then it is indeed very very selfish. These pilots are making, from what I understand, at least 4 times that of the average working person’s salary, and while their profession is a highly skilled and technical one, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t already making an extremely good wage. I remember the baseball strike here in the US years ago, and how mad I was because despite the fact that I am not a fan of that sport, they already were making a great deal more money than those in “support industries”, and their strike didn’t hurt baseball fans, but did destroy several businesses, put untold thousands out of work and forced many Americans to starve. So, I guess the litmus test really should be one where the potential strikers desired must be weighed by how much they already make, how much their strike will actually hurt the pocket books of innocent individuals, and whether simply being a bit patient could solve a lot of the issues.

  3. 3 pattin in cape coral
    December 15, 2009 at 15:40

    If BA is struggling to stay afloat, I don’t think it’s wise to strike at this time. As to whether or not striking is selfish, it depends on a lot of factors. As you point out, striking has been instrumental in helping women move towards equal pay, but the perspective of my particular pay and benefits, it does seem selfish when people with outrageously large wages still want more. It is understandable why people chose to strike at particularly busy times, to highlight how necessary their service truly is.

  4. December 15, 2009 at 15:56

    I dont think that striking is selfish.In the recent past, the cost of living has really skyrocketed and it is only reasonable that wotkers’ pay and other benefits be improved.It is infact people who cause workers to strike that are selfish if at all there is a selfishparty in this scenario.
    (kimathi university student-NYERI,KENYA)

  5. 5 Ronald Almeida
    December 15, 2009 at 16:04

    Is striking selfish? Of course it is and why shouldn’t it be? If anyone claims he or she isn’t selfish, they are nothing but liars. The sooner more people realise this reality the less liars there will be. If you trust others to take care of your affairs you can wait all your life. There are enough to confuse you of the greatest axiom of life : Survival of the fittest.

  6. 6 Luz Ma from Mexico
    December 15, 2009 at 16:18

    Well… some corporate practices are way more selfish than workers’ strikes. The sad fact is that, in order to make more profits, some employers will take advantage of their labor force, specially in tough financial times, when people need more their jobs.

    However, there should be a balance, because there are some unions that are used to disrupt the economy or to gain political power.

    It is a very touchy subject, and in this case, I feel bad for the customers… air transport strike during the holidays… what a nightmare!

  7. December 15, 2009 at 16:21

    A strike can have meaning if it is carried out to get reasonable demands. It shouldn’t be a form of blackmail to achieve one’s demands at the expense of those who can be affected by it.

    In the case of British Airways cabin crew, they could have chosen another date as they are apparently targeting both their company and the customers.

    Considering the financial difficulties any sector can undergo, flexibility should be on the part of the employers and the employees. One means for that is that the employee can accept a cut in their salaries to help those threatened with redundancy to keep their jobs.

    What isn’t acceptable is that when the employers have the possibility to improve the situations of their employees but they refuse to do so just for accumulating more benefits.

    Intransigence on both sides can, in the long run, lead to ruin from which neither side can recover easily.

  8. 8 steve
    December 15, 2009 at 16:23

    So remember this, and don’t fly BA in the future. The strikers will lose their jobs. They are striking over pay issues. If this were about safety issues, like during the early 20th century , and they were seeking safety measures so that they wouldn’t get maimed, then that’s understandble. But just for money? Hospital workers going on strike for money? How many people will die for their selfish wants?

    • 9 Mike in Seattle
      December 15, 2009 at 16:48

      Steve –

      It’s not fair that wages and benefits are continually being cut in the name of shareholder value. It’s not right that worker productivity continually increases while median household incomes remain stagnant for decades. If asking for more money is “selfish” then why are the business owners keeping it all for themselves?

  9. 10 Keith from USA
    December 15, 2009 at 16:29

    They should strike during christmas. Its the way to get people to pay attention. Working men and women have rarely ever gotten paid fair wages. It’s not selfish for them to strike like this. What is selfish is all those rich people who conspire to cheat workers out of their rightful earnings.

  10. 11 By George from Nairobi,Kenya
    December 15, 2009 at 16:32

    I think the timing is wrong for people who had holidays planned and also for Kenya because our country depends a lot on tourists from Britain especially during the holiday season many of whom use BA

  11. 12 maccusgermanis
    December 15, 2009 at 16:37

    Of course it is. So what is wrong with selfishness anyway? It is natural. So are bankers, that go to work during this period, still to be cursed for their salaries?

  12. 13 Ibrahim in UK
    December 15, 2009 at 16:37

    The general public don’t really care for the issues faced by other people like the strikers. Would anyone have heard of it if there wasn’t a strike? The strikers are just as selfish as the rest of us, only that their selfishness is more visible than ours and affects more people.

  13. 14 James
    December 15, 2009 at 16:38

    It is ridiculously selfish! Americans have become accustom to live way over there means. They are blindly going about their lives as if all is well! Personally I think the airlines should just fire all who are not willy to cut back, and move on! I think unions can be a great thing, but when people are being ridiculous then the company has to do whats best for the shareholders. Period!

    • 15 Mike in Seattle
      December 15, 2009 at 16:57

      After looking at that US Census data, do you still believe that it’s simply a matter of spending money on nothing but flat panel tvs and expensive phones?

      Also, why are the shareholders so much more important than the folks that actually do the work? If this is the case, how is it that companies that treat their employees well like Costco are able to still make money for their shareholders?

  14. 16 Mike in Seattle
    December 15, 2009 at 16:38

    Striking is no more selfish than cutting wages, benefits and jobs. The owner of a business is looking out for a single person, and the only way employees can have any leverage is to organize and strike. To give some perspective to those outside the US, I can be fired from my job for no reason at all, and I will receive nothing more than a small portion of my wages from the state for a few weeks. I have no leverage with my boss except to organize and possibly go on strike.

    To the specific situation at hand, this is a tough situation. Those striking have family they want to visit over the holiday after all. Striking now gives them good leverage. And let’s face it, comparing their wages to the “industry standard” is a bit hazy in my eyes, as pilots and crew working in the US have been taking drastic pay cuts for years!

    It’s a terrible situation, but after years and years of companies gutting workers wages and benefits in the name of “shareholder value”, what do people expect?

    • 17 Kenn
      December 15, 2009 at 19:46

      If you have a marketable skill, even in this economy you can find work.

      It is unskilled laborers that have problems. I am in the US and am in the same position. I have a useful and marketable skill set. I make plenty of money, not a lot but enough. We have been told 2 years in a row we weren’t going to get raises, and I already had a pay cut by increasing the amount of insurance premiums we pay.

      I still have a job, I still make money, and when the economy recovers I will be compensated again.

      Oh how terrible it is.

  15. 18 Tamatoa, Zurich
    December 15, 2009 at 16:48

    I don’t think striking is selfish. It’s part of the employer-employee-relationship. It’s like work-war. After all negotiations have failed, only direct actions can help/resolve the situation. And since a collective of individuals takes the initive one could argue that it is a democratic movement. Something we should all be proud of. It shows that democracy works.
    As always you have to find the balance. But if workers genuinely believe they are being treated injustly then they should have that option. Striking could also be an indicator of miss-management. One could argue that as a consequence the management would have to pay the price not the employee. They failed. On the other hand striking can be abused to demand disproportionate things. Then the union-management should be punished. But to determine this a impartial judiciary is necessary.
    It’s very unfortunate that individuals have to suffer. But I’m sure they would want others to tolerate it too when they are on strike.
    Putting it in capitaist terms: You invested in the wrong airline/company. Now pay the price. I think that our extreme capitalist economy reveals its flaws in situations like these. The stock-holder’s power is too big. This leads to “life-threatening” situations which always have extreme consequences.

  16. 19 gary
    December 15, 2009 at 16:49

    It is selfish to strike. So what? People often band together for their mutual economic benefit and their organizational names and degrees of social acceptance are politically defined; corporation, union, monopoly, syndicate, and gang alike.
    g

  17. 20 Robert
    December 15, 2009 at 16:55

    Of course striking is selfish, and so is the entire concept of free-market, law-of-the-jungle, every-man-for-himself, survival-of-the-fittest economy. In the case of BA, the logical conclusion of the strike is that the airline will go bankrupt and will be taken over by a ruthless foreign group much less sympathetic with workers.
    But since we are not in a total free-for-all, since we have rules to protect employees, since the state has a say in the affairs of the market, it seems only logical (not to mention fair or moral) to offset limitations on management side with restraint on labor side at least where public service is concerned. For instance if postal workers have job security, the trade off is that they shouldn’t go on strike. Otherwise overprotected employees will go on strike at the slightest motive, knowing they will prevail no matter how unjustified the action.
    The latest case in point is rapid transit workers in the Paris area, punishing people who are already struggling with the economic crisis, when they themselves are quite unaffected by the crisis. The reason why these workers are overprotected is precisely to give them an incentive not to strike and disrupt the entire economy. But it is always the overprotected who go on strike, not the assembly line workers who can barely make ends meet.
    Industrial action is taken by those who can cause maximum damage at no risk to themselves. It has nothing to do with legitimate claims.

  18. December 15, 2009 at 17:02

    The idea of striking is to inconvenience people. It is meant to demonstrate the worth of the employees. The idea is to maximize the attention gotten. The holidays are exactly when most people pay attention to transportation needs. If BA doesn’t think their employees are worth everything they are requesting, then do without them. Bring in lower cost alternatives. If there aren’t any, then they will have to deal with bankruptcy. The fact that their customers didn’t consider the possibility that they may get caught in the middle of this showdown is not of the company or the unions concern. If anything this kind of inconvenience will further educate the public as to how important these roles are. Only through this knowledge will the consumer be willing to pay a little extra for the product they are purchasing.

  19. 22 piscator
    December 15, 2009 at 17:03

    Many who opposes the strike seems to have their own selfish motives.

    What we are seeing here is a world wide phenomenon of bad driving out good. Cheap wages driving down fairly negotiated wages.

    Leaving aside the people who begrudge everybody everything, I would think that most people would agree that it is fair to have an effective protest if your agreed pay is being cut without negotiated agreement. Unfortunately, the only effect protest many macho managements understand in many situations is striking, so workers have to resort to it.

    If it wasn’t for people being prepared to lose money to maintain or improve their working conditions we would all soon be back to Victorian times. Governments all over the World have had to impose minimum wages to protect powerless people from unscrupulous employers. Also this allows those employers who do pay a living wage to compete with those who can operate at a lower cost at the expense of workers wages – is that unreasonable, or militant?

    Western affluence is on a downward spiral in the cost wars of Global capitalism. Blaming the victims, and those vainly attempting to reverse the trend, is not going to solve the problem. You are going to get poorer, work harder, be unemployed for longer, and have a lower pension too, and so are your children. We need a better way of deciding fair pay across society.

  20. 23 T(no relation to T in N.Z.)
    December 15, 2009 at 17:14

    Many Wall Street firms have been bailed out with taxpayer money. Many CEO’s and others get megamillion dollar bonuses. While many regular staff are losing their jobs. And, there’s no accountability.

    So in this situation, striking isn’t selfish.

  21. 24 Prof. brian bevan
    December 15, 2009 at 17:16

    Most unfair. I feel it is also a basic crime.This time we cannot blame the airline.
    The greedy overpaid staff should be sacked/sued and a law passed to prevent such situations.Remember what Maggie did to the miners and they were not overpaid at all, but they were threatening the British way of life. these lot are doing the same. THEY HAVE TO BE STOPPED. they have no thought for anybody except themselves. Disgraceful!

  22. 25 T
    December 15, 2009 at 17:18

    In the States, SAG (the Screen Actors Guild) is one of the most powerful unions. Many U.K. actors are members so they can legally work here. If SAG calls a strike, do you really think that these people will try to fight that and break the union? And possibly risk much of their film and stage work (usually in NYC)? I don’t think so.

    So if SAG can say we’ll fight like hell to maintain our union, why can’t other unions do the same?

  23. 26 Denise in Chicago
    December 15, 2009 at 17:25

    Yes, striking is absolutely selfish and the ability to strike should be banned by law. The whole notion of unions is an antiquated and unnecessary one which unfairly benefit a small segment of society while negatively impacting everyone else. These BA employees should be grateful to have a job in this economy. BA should fire every one of these shameless, self-centered people.

    • 27 Mike in Seattle
      December 15, 2009 at 17:46

      So employees should be forced to work with the lowest wages possible with little or no protection against abuse?

      • December 15, 2009 at 18:00

        Perhaps you conveniently forgot the fact that these pilots already make far more than the industry standard, which is HUGE anyways. I’m not saying that they don’t deserve their pay, but how dare you compare their salaries, most of which are in the 6 figures, to that of a person who truly makes the lowest wages, like baggage handlers? What about the rights of the people in support industries like the servers and bartenders at the airports? They have absolutely no say in the strike, but are as we speak being hurt by it. What about those baggage handlers being off work, being hourly and NOT salary? You pretend to care for “the little people” but show an obvious obliviousness to all of the facts involved here.

      • 29 Mike in Seattle
        December 15, 2009 at 19:00

        @mikehowardswfl

        First of all, I was responding to the idea that unions as a whole are not needed and should be done away with, not in particular with BA

        Secondly, senior pilots in charge of flying hundreds of people and not crashing their planes into the cities they fly over should be paid in the six figures. It takes decades of experience and thousands of flight hours to get where they are, and I’m not bothered by this in the least.

        The industry standard for airline wages has been stagnant or going down for decades. Low wages were cited in part as the reason a plane went down in Buffalo, New York several months ago. The pilot in question was paid so little she could only afford to live with her parents in Seattle and was fatigued and made several mistakes.

        Look, I feel for those that are being affected by this and I would support any way to help them out. But if every strike has to be stopped because someone else will be affected then no employee will have any ability to protect themselves.

      • 30 maccusgermanis
        December 15, 2009 at 19:15

        Wherever one is forced to work, one is enslaved. A job is an agreement of mutual benefit to employer and employee. Isn’t the employer’s volition being violated by a strike? Or can they legally fire the lot?

  24. 31 Jon Kiparsky
    December 15, 2009 at 17:29

    Before we start talking about “selfish”, it might be worth doing to review the history. Strikes have always happened in hard times, because people will only endure a strike when they’re pushed to the wall. A strike isn’t a vacation, after all.
    The strikes of the early part of the twentieth century – I’m thinking of the US particularly, because that’s what I know most about – are what established the middle class in this country. US participation in two wars (which generated plenty of industrial activity and no infrastructure damage) worked in conjunction with easy access to a never-to-be-repeated glut of cheap energy to give the US an amazing economic advantage, and unionized labor was able to keep its share. By the 1950s, a man working in a union factory job could support a family and send his kids to college, and the upward wage pressure this provided raised wages for non-union workers. The labor movement didn’t make the economic boom on its own, but without organized labor, and primarily the strike weapon they used, the fruits of that boom would have gone entirely into the pockets of the owning class, instead of creating a middle class. The creation of the middle class provided a brilliant economic engine: a large group of people with disposable income, and the expectation of stability necessary to spend that income freely.

    So, is it selfish to strike? Well, yes, as others have pointed out it’s an action aimed at improving one’s own economic position and that of one’s co-workers. But strikes made the middle class, and the middle class made the “American Century”, the one we’re all looking back at now, and wondering where it’s gone.
    So when you see the workers at BA striking, keep in mind that if they win, it makes life better for you and your kids – unless you happen to be the owner of British Airways.

  25. 32 chinaski in LA
    December 15, 2009 at 17:30

    Striking isn’t selfish. If it is used to promote an employees best interest, well-being and equality then it is fine. Is striking selfish in the contexts you present? Yes. Why?
    Greed.

  26. 33 Crispo, Uganda
    December 15, 2009 at 17:41

    The aim isn’t bad at all, but the timing. I’m a worker and sometimes you’ve got to take a tough stance if your boss is ever gonna wink at what you’ve got to say.

    Asserting that they are selfish is itself selfish. Did you think this humble worker was gonna work and do his/her job well, when christmas is just round the corner? What would he/she put on the table for his/her family? For God’s sake this guy is struggling to have a good working environment and here we are claiming he’s money hungry.

    Truth be told, this is the only better shot those BA workers have got if there woes are to be addressed. It’s always a sacrifice. For some, they won’t even enjoy, since they’re gonna be sacked.

  27. 34 Anthony
    December 15, 2009 at 17:46

    Time to ship in scabs. Unions are out dated and served its purpose. We need and anti-union, who could supply workers in cases like this, in order to keep the unions in check.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  28. 37 Gary Paudler
    December 15, 2009 at 17:50

    Yes it is selfish. Every aspect of the typical employer-employee relationship is selfish. I am philosophically very pro-labor and would not advocate curtailing a union’s right to collective bargaining and, ultimately if negotiations fail, striking.
    But with many airlines failing, unemployment on the rise and dire conditions in many industries, striking during the holidays seems very foolish and quite tone-deaf on the part of union leadership.

  29. 38 Bert
    December 15, 2009 at 17:56

    I”m just glad I don’t need to fly BA over the holidays. So I have the luxury of waxing eloquent about strikes.

    Of course striking is slefish. By definition, it’s a technique used by workers to improve their conditions. It’s not to help the passengers or the company, right? But that alone does not make it wrong.

    BA is hurting, so it seems to me, no one is getting rich over there. The strikers are probably helping to hasten the demise of the whole company. I don;t buy the knee-jerk repsonse of several posters, who automatically assume that there are the few who get rich off the backs of all the workers.

    • December 15, 2009 at 18:16

      it’ll seem that it’s the workers that put this strike on over the the festive period but wait till the real story is told;and the strike action is always a last resort of any work-force;would you like to walk the streets for two weeks in the freezing cold

  30. 41 Roberto
    December 15, 2009 at 18:10

    RE “” Airways cabin crew voted to strike for 12 days over the Christmas period “”
    ———————————————

    ———- Ahhhh, the warm and fuzzy Christmas holidays are upon us again.

    Tis the season for boneheaded unions to roll out their Christmas just desserts banquet wagons as the usual suspects regale us with the good jeers of merry union bashing.

    And the haves to have a jolly good Christmas while the have nots to make do with whatever they can scrape together, just like all the previous Christmases.

    Drive safe all and to all, A Very Merry Christmas.

  31. 42 Tom K in Mpls
    December 15, 2009 at 18:13

    I think the better question would be ‘ why would anyone want to work for a company that is so bad that they need a union?’. Both sides are equally greedy. Both sides play by rules they put down to get what they can for irrelevant reasons. They deserve each other. Both sides will loose revenue that will take up to a decade to recover. The business will eagerly be taken up by better teams.

  32. December 15, 2009 at 18:20

    It’s hardly a knee-jerk response to observe that the owner of a company makes money by hiring other people to work for them. It seems almost trivial to notice that the ranks of millionaires contain rather owners of companies than workers in them. You don’t have to be a Marxist to come to the conclusion that those millionaires’ millions depend on the labor of the people who are not millionaires themselves. If you want to say they’re “getting rich off the backs of the workers”, well, that’s your phrasing and your interpretation.

  33. 44 Alan in Arizona
    December 15, 2009 at 18:30

    It is selfish! But it’s probably called for if an employer will not deal honestly with it’s employees. I’m not in favor of unions, but when you work for a large company each individual becomes less important and the only way to stick up for yourself is as a group. If more large companies dealt with employees like small companies were everyone is family and everyone benefits from the hard work of the group as a whole. The word strike wouldn’t be heard so often. It’s the employees that make the customers happy. If the employees are happy, the customers are happy and then so are the bosses.

    It’s not that hard to understand. And effects the bottom line more than most imagine.

    It’s really the companies fault.

    • 45 Mike in Seattle
      December 15, 2009 at 18:51

      Hear hear!

      It’s not about favoring labor or management, and it never has. It’s all about having a good relationship between the two, and dealing with a fair manner.

      The BBC just mentioned that BA will be suing to stop the strike. Even if this works, it will do nothing but make the employees resentful and more empowered to strike later or do worse.

  34. 46 S (from London)
    December 15, 2009 at 18:31

    Employees are not daft and they understand what is going on. It is obvious that BA has financial problems that need to be resolved; however, employees should have been engaged in the decision making process over what course of action would have been acceptable to all concerned. I am not saying that employees should draw the options, that job is for senior management, but they (employees) should be presented with real options (based on honest hard facts – i.e. financial figures) to collectively choose from.

    Strikes are selfish. In fact anything we do is out of selfishness. I do not subscribe to the idea of altruism. Those who perform what appear to be “altruistic actions” are doing so for their own benefit even if that benefit is to feel good about having performed those actions or about having stuck to their principles.

  35. 47 Ali Garba
    December 15, 2009 at 18:34

    Striking is a right. It is a privilege to others. It could be costly to business owners and the society. But at times words are not heard. They have to be followed with costly actions. I sympathize with the stranded travelers. Let them be the jurists in the case between the two major parties.

  36. 48 Kevin PE
    December 15, 2009 at 18:35

    No matter what the outcome of salary negotiations, the average “worker” will remain in exactly the same position relatively. Almost every sector in the economy has these salary disputes at some time. The result – every additional cost to the company is applied to the consumer, so the end result is that everything costs more, and since everybody is a consumer of commodities, that “increase” contributes almost zero, except in the very short term until all the market is level again. Nobody has EVER got wealthy on a 9 to 5.

    • 49 Mike in Seattle
      December 15, 2009 at 19:06

      You’re forgetting that prices don’t often come down but instead are given to the share holders or pocketed as profit.

  37. December 15, 2009 at 18:48

    bet the strike action of the bus companies taking holiday-makers to and from the airports in spain did’nt make the news or because it only involved about 1000 folk it was’nt newsworthy

  38. 51 Steve G 0 Cleveland
    December 15, 2009 at 18:53

    Selfish? Of course it is a Union action. The public be dammed.

    Unions are by definition selfish. They want “more” while providing “less”.

    Do Unions create new businesses and jobs? Never.

    Do unions restrict individual freedom of employment? Always.

    Unions pretty much killed the US automobile industry and are working hard to ensure that no one will want to start a company in this country. The only good news is that there are still some states which protect their citizen’s right to work without unions skimming their wages.

    If you do not like your job and wages and you are so important….then quit….another job should be easy to find.

    • December 15, 2009 at 19:51

      You’re right. they never should have struck to work less. They should still work 7 days, 12+hr days at auto plants such as Ford. They should work in dangerous conditions such as the coal mines where the family is left destitute when the bread winner is killed and the family received no benefits. The union does not make the auto, dig the mines. The owners do. They cut corners at every chance while jeopardizing the lives of their employees. They caused the dealths along with unfair trade practices. You’re so right. We all know they would have’eventually’ done right. Don’t we? How about those pesky child labor laws. How about the sweat shops that still proliferate. They just broke up a slavery ring in Florida.

  39. 53 steve
    December 15, 2009 at 18:58

    Would they rather be unemployed? People really should be thankful to have a job, to have a roof over their head, and enough food to eat.

  40. December 15, 2009 at 19:00

    The Christmas festive period is meant to be a period of joy and celebration.Choosing the Christmas and New Year holiday period to cause the maximum inconvenience and mayhem to passengers does not reflect well on BA employees. Sympathy from the public could be seriously eroded. This lengthy strike will only tarnish BA’s name further. Airlines are still reeling after the financial crisis. This strike could ground BA for good. The tactics used are extremely sad!

  41. 55 Julia in Portland Oregon
    December 15, 2009 at 19:01

    Strikes have historically been one of the most effective ways to promote employee welfare.

    To be effective they have to be done when the employer will feel the biggest pinch —- that is the whole point.

    If you like working only 40 hours a week instead of 7 days/wk and 10-12 hr/days, and you like working for a decent salary and having health benefits…..you can thank someone who was willing to strike, someone who was willing to stand up against unjust labor practices. Someone who cared enough to risk everything to stand up for what is right.

  42. 56 Adam in Portland
    December 15, 2009 at 19:09

    Striking by workers is no more selfish than the recalcitrance of the management with whom they’ve been negotiating.

    Support the strikers now. Maybe we’ll work on your boss next.

  43. 57 Anthony
    December 15, 2009 at 19:10

    In California, Ralphs (grocery store) went on strike. I know quite a few people who works for Ralphs, and you know what they accomplished… NOTHING!!! All of them say it was for no reason, and the only people to make money was the union leaders.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  44. 58 steve
    December 15, 2009 at 19:12

    Just so we can have a better picture of your trade union guest, could you ask him who he wished won the cold war?

  45. 59 steve
    December 15, 2009 at 19:15

    What about the passengers who are visiting relatives who won’t be alive for next year’s holidays? What about people who need to get to a destination for medical treatment? How many people are going to be harmed by this strike? What happens if someone is denied the vacation they were planning and then does something rash? Airplanes also transport mail, goods, etc, sometimes even vital organs for transplant. What happens to the person who cannnot get an organ because someone is striking because they aren’t happy with thier pay during a recession?

  46. 60 Tom K in Mpls
    December 15, 2009 at 19:18

    Do people in unions realize that they are paying for a second level of administration?

  47. 61 John Yoakum
    December 15, 2009 at 19:18

    My daughter is due to leave the U.S for India to study abroad on Christmas day on British Airways. She made these plans about 60 days ahead, as do most travelers. The union is making enemies out of friends by this action. If they voted to take this action 60 or 90 days out I would be 100% supportive. Now I have to buy a non-discounted ticket on another airline and wait for the refund, and that is a great financial burden on me, a teacher who is a proud member of a union.

  48. 62 Chrissy in Portland
    December 15, 2009 at 19:18

    I understand the need for unions and when necessary the need to strike, but this is just wrong. The union is obviously planning on using the public reaction and disappointment to their benefit. So they want to strike, that’s their right… but why not after the 1st of the yr? NO, they want to do it when it can potentially cause the most damage… regardless of who it hurts. Wait 12 days and do it after the holidays so people can be with their families.

  49. 63 Al
    December 15, 2009 at 19:19

    It makes more sense to ask whether the people opposed to striking are selfish.

  50. 64 Denise in Chicago
    December 15, 2009 at 19:19

    I work for a large company and if I don’t like how I’m treated I can simply quit and find another job. BA staff who are unhappy with their already generous pay and benefits should do the same. I hope the BA employees at least have the decency to be embarrassed by their actions.

  51. 65 Wise
    December 15, 2009 at 19:20

    I feel its the only way “voiceless” people could get their demands, its d same story all over the world. just let the union be, cos u would have done same if u were in there shoes

  52. December 15, 2009 at 19:20

    Strikes have been a necessary evil in the past.
    but they can be avoided if we implemented a profitsharing tax credit.
    this allows businesses to plow up to 20% of net profits back to employees, and they get a tax credit for that profitsharing.
    This would take priority over CEO bonuses or stockholder dividends.
    If their is plenty left over then that is fine.

    profitability is primary. If their are no profits then there is no profitsharing.

    However a close eye needs to look at what the company is calling
    a nonprofitable year. Are they paying big stockholder dividends and CEO bonuses first? then you have a suspect definition of “in debt”.

  53. December 15, 2009 at 19:21

    KCPW, Salt Lake City, Utah
    No doubt at one time in the history of Labor Unions and strikes were needed. Now it seems that striking is a way to further peoples petty agendas, and has created an atmosphere of corruption.

  54. 68 Jon
    December 15, 2009 at 19:24

    Selfish? People are losing their jobs and getting their pay stopped for the holidays and the biggest things on peoples minds are that they won’t be able to see their families? Let’s think about the people losing their jobs then the people who can’t go to Grandma’s house.

  55. 69 mers in Oregon
    December 15, 2009 at 19:25

    It’s amazing to me what people in the Western World get outraged over. Nobody is getting hurt or violated here. People who can think nothing of their own families are selfish in their own way because they are not thinking about the wider population of BA workers and their families who are losing out. Taking a pay cut while the cost of living steadily rises is a threat we all fear. Additionally, I’m sure that many BA workers are also sacrificing being with their families for the holidays due to the strike.

  56. 70 Wise olotu
    December 15, 2009 at 19:26

    I feel its the only way “voiceless” people could get their demands, its d same story all over the world. just let the union be, cos u would have done same if u were in there shoes. {NIGERIA}

  57. 71 Ernie
    December 15, 2009 at 19:26

    I don’t believe striking is selfish. It is a right under contract for striking to occur. The traveling public should understand that all air flights are subject to walk-outs. That’s part of the reality, even though it is not the norm. Lots of people are complaining that if this strike occurs, they won’t be able to join their families for Christmas. But, I don’t hear many people thanking them for working on the days on and around Christmas from years past.

  58. 72 Mike in Seattle
    December 15, 2009 at 19:26

    A correction for Diana –

    The richest people in the country pay the smallest percentage of taxes. Warren Buffet is famous for noting that he pays a smaller percentage of taxes than his own personal secretary.

    • 73 maccusgermanis
      December 15, 2009 at 19:49

      Shouldn’t a “correction” be correct?
      “In 2001 the top 1% earned 14.8% of all income and paid 34.4% of federal income taxes.”

      • 74 Kenn
        December 15, 2009 at 20:02

        It is a gross misrepresentation.

        Buffet pays a smaller percentage of his net income than his secretary does hers.

        He still pays an exponentially larger total per year than she ever will in her entire life.

  59. December 15, 2009 at 19:30

    I question the tax statistics of the United States that were mentioned by the caller. The tax burden has been shifting for decades from high earners and large corporations to middle income tax payers. The gap between the rich and poor grows ever wider here in the US. Wages are dropping while executive compensation grows.
    Striking is one of the few tools workers have.

  60. 76 Tom K in Mpls
    December 15, 2009 at 19:31

    Also, no company will fire and hire on a whim. This is a costly procedure without any guarantee of improving their situation.

  61. December 15, 2009 at 19:34

    I would love to have the option to strike. Oregon is an “at will” state meaning you can be fired without a reason having to be stated. It often hurts the economy and the well being of the individuals and the businesses. In the industries I have worked in, it is a guarantee that you will be sacked if you complain about conditions or policies more than once.

  62. 78 Patrick from NYC
    December 15, 2009 at 19:35

    BA shouldn’t cut pay. They should just fire people to cut down their work force. Then if they need more people just rehire them at a cheaper rate. This is what other companies are doing.

  63. 79 Kenn
    December 15, 2009 at 19:38

    This strike is ridiculous.

    These people should be fired and replaced. There about a million people who would happily take jobs at this point and not complain about it.

    Sorry to the socialist on the show, but employers should have the ability to fire and hire who they please for whatever pay the workers will accept.

    IF you don’t like it, good, quit and find another job, there are plenty of people who will the take the one you don’t find good enough.

  64. 80 Mr. Kawakubo
    December 15, 2009 at 19:39

    My sister flew first class on Iberia Airlines to Europe a couple months ago and the flight attendants were on strike and wouldn’t serve the passengers. So my sister’s husband asked if he could at least be allowed to serve beverages for the passengers and they let him.

    For some reason, flight attendants seem to have gained an increasing sense of entitlement, perhaps due to 9/11. This mess is a fatal brew, because it gives passengers a right to be even more dissatisfied with the service and rude to the attendants. Even if flight attendants are correct in the reason for their strike, it is still in a sense disrespectful to their clients, because they are being denied a service they paid for.

    Perhaps we can replace flight attendants entirely or at least many of them with on-board vending machines!

  65. 81 Shannon in Ohio
    December 15, 2009 at 19:40

    Historically, striking workers often won the struggle because they gained the sympathy of the general public. Keeping people from their loved ones during the holidays seems a very poor strategy indeed. BA and their customers will both be the worse for this.

  66. 82 J.B. Konno
    December 15, 2009 at 19:40

    Striking is a leveraging tool, for employees attempting to collectively bargain a favorable contract and not endure a ‘raw deal’ from the employer. If negotiations reach an impasse, both sides at the table know full well that striking is an option. Striking is not to be used likely, but I believe it a necessary tool– it’s often the only leverage a unionized workforce has. If you take striking away, what’s the point of collective bargaining?

    Oregon, USA

  67. 83 Robyn Lexington, KY USA
    December 15, 2009 at 19:40

    Workers have a right to strike. What makes this strike selfish is to do it during the holiday season. People save and plan all year to be with their families for the holidays. To strike at this time of year is very selfish. While I understand the difficulties of labor vs management, I feel choosing this time to go on strike is selfish with no reqard for people who spend hard money and make plans to travel for the holidays. The strike could easily be planned for January and make the same points of employee value.

  68. 84 Rachel in California, USA
    December 15, 2009 at 19:40

    Customers suffer from strikes only when the employer has an effective monopoly on some goods or services. Without the employer’s monopoly power, customers could turn to alternate providers. If BA customers are not able to travel by alternate means, that shows that BA has an effective monopoly.

    So, striking isn’t selfish; it’s an important way to equalize the power of employer and employees. But monopolies need to be brought to an end.

    Here in the USA, employers have been successfully breaking unions for decades, to the point where very few workers are members of unions. This has helped to keep wages stagnant or falling, even while the owners, bosses and stockholders siphon off more and more of the income stream produced by the workers’ production.

    We need more unions, more trust-busting to break monopoly power, and probably more strikes.

  69. December 15, 2009 at 19:41

    Regardless of what is fair, customers have our rights and we should be able to take our business to companies who are more sensitive to customer needs and demands. Without clients corporations will have no business.
    Thus corporations and unions are forgetting that to invite a third entity to their negotiation table, the customer.

  70. 86 Tom D Ford
    December 15, 2009 at 19:42

    The Manhattan Institute promotes policies that kill jobs and small businesses and create extremes of poverty.

    They promote “Free Market” extremist Conservative policies that only benefit giant Corporations at the cost of workers and small business owners.

  71. 87 Bob in Queensland
    December 15, 2009 at 19:43

    Even if not selfish, striking is a very blunt weapon that all too often hits innocent customers more than the management. Surely some creative thinking could come up with a better tactic…upgrade everyone to first class without telling the company or something!

  72. 88 Derek in California
    December 15, 2009 at 19:44

    I find it telling that we’re not discussing in depth the business practices that management have enacted that have led up to the various strikes. Are we talking about unfair compensation for executives versus the workers? Whose benefits and pay are shrinking and whose are are actually increasing?

    The fact that we even discuss unions as selfish – which have benefitted all of us for centuries all over the world – tells me that public opinion has been easily duped, in part by main stream media’s portrayal of labor issues. You have to be kidding me if you believe you’re getting the full picture from any news agency filters information based on executive interests.

    Unions continue the struggle for workers everywhere, yet we see smear campaigns in the United States all the time: unions as bullies (a total reversal of reality), as selfish entities that don’t care for the business they don’t work for, when every time you’ll find that it’s the corporations and business themselves that’ve been slowly eroding the pay and benefits of its workers for years, all for increased profits. Look at the increasing dispartity of wealth!

    Think twice before you disparage unions. When workers don’t have rights, you have nothing but exploitation. It might be an inconvenience over the holidays, but when main stream media continues its continual misinformation and selective information, I don’t think extreme measures like these strikes are unnecessary.

  73. 89 anne in portland or
    December 15, 2009 at 19:46

    I work in Portland, Or and am luckily in a union. How dare multi-national corporations start a conversation calling workers selfish for demanding their rights. It’s smoke and mirrors. The question is why are ceos and share holders so selfish and greedy!

  74. 90 Bruce - Texas
    December 15, 2009 at 19:48

    People in America do not have the option to just “quit and get another job”. If someone were to quit right now they may not have another quality job for a year or two.

    • 91 Kenn
      December 15, 2009 at 19:58

      Thats not true, it depends on your skill set. If you have a marketable skill set then you can always find a ‘quality’ job.

      If you don’t, there are plenty of jobs paying 10 bucks an hour, you can get 2 of them and make decent money until you find that dream job of yours.

      But sometimes you have to work more than 32 hours a week to make ends meet.

  75. 92 Chris
    December 15, 2009 at 19:53

    It is horrific reading and listening to so many individuals saying that a worker should quit- or be fired- if she/he doesn’t agree with management. Without the worker, the company is _nothing_. It is the worker who should control conditions at the company, not executives.

  76. 93 Andrew Leslie
    December 15, 2009 at 19:55

    Winston-Salem, NC – I have a question for your labor representatives. What responsibility do BA crews have for the company being profitable? Do the workers have ANY responsibility for profitable operation? i am sympathetic to both sides: most U.S. workers would LOVE to have union protection – U.S. workers can be dismissed for any reason, or no reason, whatsoever. On the other hand, businesses need to be able to adapt quickly, and union rules must be changed quickly to make this possible.

  77. 94 steve
    December 15, 2009 at 19:56

    The guest seems to think that having larger classes is depriving students of an education. I would think the absence of a teacher who is striking is a bigger hindrance to education. They are so selfish, they cannot even see that they are selfish.

  78. 95 Roberto
    December 15, 2009 at 19:58

    Ken you are promoting a type of social model that no one has any protection in life. Your life, your home, your income and well being is at whim of your boss. I think too much blood has been spilt over the last two centuries forcing capitalists and those with the power to give rights and dignity to the simpler people.

    What many people are saying that just because there other people ready to work for peanuts no one should have any rights is just plain wrong.

  79. 96 Dr Loco from Oregon
    December 15, 2009 at 19:58

    People are selfish in general. The people that believe this is selfish must be quite comfortable in their own occupations, are not affected by the poor economy, and do not have to take a pay cut in order to keep their jobs. They fail to put themselves in the shoes of these employees who have mortgages, families to support, ongoing bills, and personal debt the same as everyone else. When your pay is cut your personal debt is not. Your utility and mortgage bills don’t go down just because your pay does. As for the travlers: they have not done their homework or planning. This event was not unforeseen. If there was any inkling of this in the wind I would have changed my airline or would never have purchased tickets from this airline to begin with.. More likely customers paid no attention to what was happening. Those who did know about it likely had the attitude that it would not happen and they did not need to change their plans. They feel comfortable enough in their own situation to not give a hoot about others. The anger should be directed at the company rather than the employees and keep this in mind: it can happen to YOU! This is not selfish at all and if anyone took the time to read the fine print on their tickets it will no doubt say that strikes are one of the many items that are not under their control. Where is the forward planning people?

  80. 97 Tim M
    December 15, 2009 at 19:58

    I work for a large grocery company in the states that employs both union and non-union workers and it’s obvious that the non union workers are made to do more at the expense of their jobs. I’m a student so I can go out and get any old job, but what about the people that are old and have families? Also what jobs are out there with 10% unemployment? Sometimes strikes are necessary, without that freedom we’re just serfs

  81. 98 JanB
    December 15, 2009 at 19:59

    In a way, every strike is a bit selfish, in certain wine-producing countries between Belgium, Spain, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland it has even become a national sport, an easy way to get government subsidies for failing businesses.
    However, once in a while, strikes are wholly justified and only used as a last resort, like this one at BA.
    A few passengers may get duped, but then again, how much do they care about the well-being of the crews that service them?

  82. 99 Tom D Ford
    December 15, 2009 at 19:59

    Conservatives are always at war against workers and small businesses, they don’t care if the economy is good or bad, they have no morals about kicking a worker when she is down.

    Striking is not selfish, it is self defense!

  83. 100 Chris
    December 15, 2009 at 20:02

    To those whom much is given, much should be expected. Incidentally, the document you link to is a press release from a hardly-disinterested party, a conservative Republican Congressperson. The statistics related in the press release refer only to federal income tax, not total tax paid. One might suppose that someone who has studied “tax law” would understand that Americans pay more than income tax, and that sales tax and use tax burdens are paid at a higher rate by the less-wealthy. Then again, someone who links to a right-wing politician’s press release might not care much about the regressive nature of sales and use taxes.

    I am fully comfortable with ultra-wealthy individuals, those who earn hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars annually, paying a higher percentage of income tax.

  84. 101 Derek in California
    December 15, 2009 at 20:05

    I also find it extremely concerning that so many people who are unemployed are showing so much hostility towards the striking employees, telling them they should be happy for what they have, however shrinking their share is. With that logic, you are saying that you’re going to let any business set any standard however low, just because you should be happy to be employed? With that logic, you are okay with anything from child labor to wages that can barely sustain survival.

    And if you’re drawing a line at those deplorable worker conditions, then I believe we need to think about why that line is drawn, and how unions have been integral with having that line drawn, wherever it can be. The fight doesn’t end with the basics. It’s a continual struggle for fairness. There is a recession, yes, but it’s in these times that corporations exploit the most to erode the rights and benefits of its workers, while only keeping an eye on their bottom line.

  85. 102 Larry Tucker, Lyons OR, USA
    December 15, 2009 at 20:12

    I have worked as a union worker and non-union worker. I understand the need to reinforce ones stand. However, I have come to believe that those working in the service section should NOT be able to strike. I was a union firefighter in a fire district where contract negotiations came to a stalemate 12 times in 13 years. The one year they didn’t was due to a two years settlement. Settlement came through binding arbitration. So, let both sides submit their best offer to an arbitration board, where only one proposal can be accepted. Best offer arbitration make both parties submit realistic proposals. Firefighters, police, teachers, transportation, etc. effect too many people to allow for outright strikes. Reason may be hard to come by when the polarization of negotiations can not come to a common agreement. So, remove the emotional aspect of those directly involved.

  86. 103 Kevin PE
    December 15, 2009 at 20:54

    @ Steve, using your supplied statistics i.e. top 50 paying 97.11% leaving bottom 50 at 2.89% of taxes tells me that there is something very, very wrong in the distribution of wealth in the USA. It shows that half the population is earning an average 33 times less than the top 50%. Is my calculation correct here? – I realize there are sliding tax scales. Too much for a few, but not enough to go around.

  87. 104 theiry
    December 15, 2009 at 21:05

    Strinking is selfish aswell as not selfish;
    It is not selfish because the people involving are fighting for thier right aswell as creating awareness to to government or thier employer the situation in which they are;
    Contrary to the above; It is selfish; b/C people will turn to destroy the state propery or abstaintial from their job side, which will slow down their production effeciency.

  88. 105 theiry
    December 15, 2009 at 21:17

    Strinking is selfish aswell as not selfish;
    It is not selfish because the people involving are fighting for thier right aswell as creating awareness to government or thier employer the situation in which they are;
    Contrary to the above; It is selfish; b/C people will turn to destroy the state propery or abstaintial from their job side, which will slow down their production effeciency.
    THIERY
    CAMEROON
    YAOUNDE

  89. 106 Guillermo
    December 15, 2009 at 21:47

    The bearoucracy of any government is used to make things slow. Even Fidel Castro couldn´t do anything to make them change. When a worker and its union try to have a better salary and other gainings he has to confront the boss and the authorities. The only legal force he has is the strike. What is happening is not new. There is a procedure in legal terms. The last is strike. Remember that the workers of airlines must do their job when everyone is at home celebrating Christmas. The newspapers who criticize and say that they are using blackmail is an error. The fat cats that own the airlines get always their money. And it is big money! If they had mercy they would have made an early arrangement, before Christmas.

  90. 107 T
    December 16, 2009 at 00:02

    Why is it that nobody’s talking about the management of these various companies that are going on strike? Why is it that they “deserve” multi-million dollar salaries (cash, stock, etc.) and the rest of their staff have to take cuts or be fired?

    Is it because the job is so stressful? Is it because it’s the “going market rate”? Is it because they’re so superior to the rest of the staff? Or, is it because they have such a brilliant attorney who helps to negotiate their contract?

    If a company is in trouble EVERYONE from the top down should take pay cuts. And not divert their stock options to cover the loss of income.

  91. 108 Nathan Xu in Adelaide Australia
    December 16, 2009 at 06:47

    BA is a good airline. I had great experience on all the BA flights. I would hate to see BA go under. I understand BA staffs have every right to express their feeling, but I do believe the timing for such strike is not great. In addition, strike may not win any support from public, imagine those who will miss the only chance they could see their loved one in a year. I hope BA staffs will give another thought and carry out their duties.

  92. 109 Dennis Junior
    December 16, 2009 at 16:22

    I honestly think it is selfish to strike during the Holiday Season…Since, it makes people already busy with their activities more upset and, will lead to problems…..

    =Dennis Junior=

  93. 110 piscator
    December 16, 2009 at 18:44

    BA’s response is interesting. They will not negotiate whilst they are awaiting the courts to disallow the strike. This tactic can only be to waste another couple of days. It is fairly unlikely that BA will win in court. They are contesting a few percent of the votes which were cast by people about to leave BA. This will still leave about 80% of the 90% of the people who voted for it with valid votes. This majority is pretty unusual in such ballots , where 60/40 is more the norm. It would be at least odd if the court finds in BAs favour.

    But, for BA, it wastes a couple of days and allows the media time to put more more pressure on the would be strikers. I notice that the Union are prepared to appear on TV abd radio, and take all kinds of stick, whilst the management are allowed to get away with making holier than thou statements, unquestioned – or even commented upon.

  94. 111 Vanessa
    December 16, 2009 at 19:07

    I don’t normally do blogs, but I am absolutely incensed by the selfishness and unrealistic approach by the cabin crew. It must be said not all are in favour. I had an email from a friend who flies part-time out of Gatwick who was wholly against it and will be offering his support. I just want to say to these highly paid, priveleged group of “prestige” waiting staff that they should get real and smell the coffee. When the average salary in the UK is less than what most of them earn plus all the additional perks and opportunities they get they should consider themselves to be lucky they have a job. And, many of us have taken pay cuts, bonus cuts, pay freezes etc etc to stay in a job. They should be supporting BA, UK’s national carrier which is quite clearly going through a tough time. What a miserable bunch of self-serving selfish group of people they are – forcing misery on others who wish to travel at this important time of year. Yes, I am very angry!!

  95. 112 viola
    December 16, 2009 at 19:46

    Of course it’s selfish. And why not? Who else is going to look after your interests? Management? Don’t think so.

    As inconvenient as strikes are, it certainly makes no sense to strike at times when a strike will have zero effect and exert zero pressure. No point in foregoing a paycheque and risking your job for nothing.

    If the world were not a place where each person has to fight hard for advantage, not to mention the greed for more goodies we all want, there would be no need for strikes or unions.

  96. 113 Harry Webb
    December 16, 2009 at 20:38

    Only a person with a decent job or a comfortable income could possibly regard striking as “selfish”. The only reason that we have any freedoms is because someone in the past stood up for themselves against the wealthy and powerful.

  97. 114 T
    December 17, 2009 at 02:26

    For everyone who’s quick to have a go at the “selfish” BA employees, first consider this.

    Why do you enjoy many of the workplace benefits that we take for granted? Because of unions. That’s not just a Tony Benn soundbite, but a fact. Fact #2: Not all but many coporations would love nothing more than to break unions. And imagine if they did.

    What would the workplace be like with no unions at all? Can you seriously say they would be better?

  98. 115 scmehta
    December 17, 2009 at 07:56

    Striking is not always selfish, but their timings generally are. The strikers must never alienate the general public by showing indifference or insolence; all scruples must be observed in setting the agenda and the timing of any strike.

  99. 116 kamalanii
    December 17, 2009 at 17:47

    My, 2 beloved freinds from England are stack in Los Angeles they’re upset but my family and I have agree to fly them back to Hawaii for christmas so they will have a tropical christmas!! this is selfish act from BBA!!


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