Academics Condemn Willie Walsh

A rather encouraging albeit unusual letter has been published in today's Guardian. It was signed many if not most of the UK's top Industrial Relations academics. The body of the letter is

Dear Editor,

As academics in the field of employment relations our expertise includes the analysis of the causes, process and outcomes of industrial disputes and particularly the dynamics of strike action. Given the near certainty of further strikes (Follow-up strike will go ahead says union, March 22nd), it is clear to us that the actions of the chief executive of British Airways, notwithstanding his protestations to the contrary, are explicable only by the desire to break the union which represents the cabin crew. What other possible interpretation can there be for Willie Walsh rejecting Unite's acceptance of BA's previous offer or indeed of his marshalling of resources, including those of bitter industry rival Ryanair, to undermine the action of his staff? Walsh and now Prime Minister Brown have made the error of underestimating the deep seated and justifiable anger of a loyal and dedicated workforce, whose continued trust and goodwill is a vital ingredient of customer care.

Overwhelming majorities in two strike ballots in the face of tabloid opprobrium testify to employees' understanding that a victory for Walsh's macho management strategy would precipitate a race to the bottom in terms of working conditions and job quality. In the process, this would damage beyond repair the high standards of customer service for which BA cabin crew are renowned. The wider significance of a triumph of unilateral management prerogative would be a widening of the representation gap in UK employment relations, and a further erosion of worker rights and of that most precious of commodities – democracy. For all these reasons, BA's cabin crew and their union, Unite, deserve our support rather than knee-jerk vilification.

I haven't included the list of signatures but it's well worth a look.