Welcome to Strike Island, then. British Airways’ ground handlers – or at least, a chunk of them – are now joining an ever-growing list of unionised workers who have picked walkouts over work amid a heightening cost of everything crisis.
Whether it’s wise for union leaders to take their staff out on strike at the minute is an open question. Rail unions in particular are surely risking their own futures not just by damaging confidence in train travel but by encouraging technological innovation.
TfL staff walking out, leaving bigger holes in the network’s finances at a time when they surely know there aren’t the revenues right now to justify pay rises, are equally hobbling chances of a longer-term funding settlement from central government. And aviation staff, with most of the biggest players in the industry still nursing pandemic-shaped financial hangovers, are hardly going to win from further putting people off travel.
As the Business Travel Association put it yesterday, the strikes will “threaten companies across the country and destroy much-anticipated holidays.”
All that said, the real villain in the piece increasingly appears the most absent of the lot: central government. On the rails they say it’s a private dispute, despite nationalising vast chunks of the network. At the airports they demand contingency measures are put in place and leave bashing heads together again to British Airways.
And most egregiously when it comes to London, the transport secretary refuses even to meet Sadiq Khan despite it being his department – alongside the Treasury – putting such stringent financial restrictions on TfL’s costs that they’ve made strikes almost inevitable.
Enough. Time for somebody to take responsibility. If nothing else, with this much industrial unrest, we’re in danger of running out of jokes about the French.