Workers Runway Newsletter No.7

This is a longer version of a newsletter we’ll be distributing in the local area. If you want some copies drop us a line on the contact details below!


Who’s going to pay for the cost of living crisis?!

The ending of COVID restrictions and the opening up of the economy will have given some local workers a glimmer of hope that two years of job insecurity and attacks on contracts might, at last, be coming to an end. But, as our system regularly does, a new set of crises and conundrums have been thrown up to test our resolve and disturb what little peace we were enjoying. Rising inflation is rapidly cutting into our spending power and creating a cost of living crisis. 

Long before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, increased energy, food and fuel prices, caused by a number of factors (post lockdown surging demand, supply chain issues etc.) were applying pressure to workers. Aside from the terrible human cost of the war in Ukraine, it is also now making a large contribution to snowballing global inflation figures and causing shortages in some poorer regions. The situation doesn’t show signs of getting any better soon, with some predictions putting UK inflation at 10% by the end of the year. On a national level wages are not keeping pace with inflation, only rising on average at around 4%. 

This is at the same time as we are seeing a shortage of workers across a great many sectors. Historically, a shortage of workers is good news, as workers are in a stronger position to demand higher wages. Workers have also been through a pandemic in which we were regularly told that we are “key workers,” worthy of praise and admiration and in which we were able to more clearly see the dividing lines between essential work and bullshit jobs. The fact that wages are increasing so slowly, at a time like this, is a sign that, for the most part, workers aren’t organised enough to demand more. Why is this? How has this dynamic been panning out in our area? And what can we do to change it?

Local Commotion!

From January onwards, a number of groups of workers around Heathrow have balloted to strike over pay. Taken as a single workplace, over the last few months, Heathrow has probably seen more official pay disputes than any other in the UK. However, no strikes have materialised from any of these ballots. In a way, it’s a shame, as strikes are good opportunities for workers from the local area to come together, make connections, offer support and learn valuable lessons for future fights. Often though, the threat of strike is enough to win more.

At Mercedes-Benz in West Drayton and Brentford, technicians voted to strike over pay. There were reports that the company was attempting to divide the workforce by offering better pay to workers on newer contracts not covered by the union. A better offer came, that workers accepted, and the strike was called off. 

We have spoken to bus drivers while leafleting, who were in the process of rejecting insulting pay offers and balloting to strike.

Closer to the runways, ground handling staff and re-fuelling drivers with Menzies balloted to strike back in January. Scheduled strike days in February were called off after the company caved in, offering 6% on pay with £3000 lump sum payments to refuelers and 7% to ground handling staff.

HGV drivers at aviation catering company DO&CO threatened to strike in early March and won a 14% pay rise for some of its newer drivers and 6% for drivers on the older contracts. 

Baggage technicians working for Vanderlande nearly went on strike over pay at the start of April, but then that was also called off when a better deal was offered for members to vote on. 

As we write, cargo handlers at WFS are voting on whether to strike after rejecting the company’s dismal offer. 

Companies like ground handling company Dnata and British Airways are attempting to buy peace among their workforce. Dnata offered a 10% pay rise without the threat of strike, which was accepted. While British Airways has offered three “bonus” payments over the remaining year, equalling 10% in total and the promise of actual pay talks in January 2023. It is a substantial amount, but as workers know, with inflation so high and taking into account pay and holiday that were lost during the pandemic, it is not so spectacular. As during the pandemic, at BA, different departments are doing their own deals. And like then, this makes a unified response very difficult. Engineering have accepted the offer, while other departments are not so sure. 

Where the workers at?! 

Labour shortages in aviation have been making headlines with hundreds of flights being cancelled, long queues at airports and airline’s raising prices and reducing schedules in an effort to cope with demand. Heathrow have said they need to recruit 12,000 new staff to manage through the summer and British Airways have been offering £1000 sign-on fees and other benefits for new starters with the right paperwork. The situation is so bad that BA can’t help but upset the staff they’ve already got, by forcing them (aircraft cleaners and others) into training as stand-in baggage handlers. 

The shortages shouldn’t be surprising given that, globally, 2.3 million aviation workers were thrown onto the scrapheap, along with a great many other jobs dependent on the industry. The job losses were blatantly unnecessary and from the company’s point of view, clearly shortsighted. As angry as the companies decisions have made us and despite the terrible suffering they have caused, it is enjoyable to watch the firms struggle to get flights off the ground because of the staff shortages that workers predicted. The companies were ruthless in their efforts to cash in on the pandemic by slashing numbers, in the expectation that when things improved, they would just be able to rehire them on worse terms and conditions. But workers are not coming back as fast as the companies need. Partly probably because they don’t see the work as very secure and also simply because they’ve retired or found jobs elsewhere. No doubt though, businesses will eventually attract enough staff to get by. There is a window of opportunity for workers at the moment to use their increased bargaining power to press for better pay and conditions across the board. Looking narrowly at the disputes above, it may look to some as though that is what’s happening. However, almost all of the inflation beating pay rises involve HGV drivers or cargo handlers, with the main spoils going to HGV drivers. This is the story across the UK. While relatively small groups of workers with more clout are getting decent deals, most workers alongside them are continuing to stagnate or decline. At the DO&CO dispute for example, we spoke to a worker that wasn’t actually aware there was nearly a strike at their workplace. It’s only one example but it’s symptomatic of a problem with all our disputes being too closed off and our workforce’s too divided. HGV drivers especially appear to be able to demand large increases due to the shortages. 

But what happens when the jobs have been filled and they’re no longer in such high demand? If we could start combining our strength rather than fencing ourselves off into our own departments we could really start demanding more for all of us, especially those on the least. Everyone would benefit from it and because we’ve not been greedy with our bargaining power and shared it about, we would be more likely to fight together when the next opportunity for management to attack us comes along. 

The next attack might not be too far off. The current boom in leisure travel is by no means guaranteed to continue. With the cost of living crisis biting and the possibility the economy going into recession this year, demand for flights may again drop off. And workers around Heathrow will again be expected to pay the price, with our jobs, pay and conditions. That is unless we can get our act together. And it has to start now and continue through the bad times and “good.” Always looking for little ways that we can help our workmates, in and out of work and building up the sense of togetherness that it takes to defend ourselves when the bosses come after us and to go on the offensive when their backs are against the wall. We have to assess our workplaces, work out where our power is and potentially could be. Plan, organise and strategise. Just like the bosses do, but not for profits for shareholders but for ourselves and our environment. Right now, aviation cargo workers have a lot of power but that could change as cheaper supply chains become more stable again and leisure travel becomes more dominant. As offices begin to fill up again, while people are still concerned about COVID, cleaners and maintenance workers could become more important. And so on…. At Heathrow Solidarity Network we are doing our bit in reaching out to as many people as we can. Offering support to workers, not because you already agree with us about everything or because it will help our organisation grow, but because as workers, we think helping each other is the only way we can truly get to the root of our problems and take control of our daily lives.

Expansion – why?!

It’s hard to believe that after the massive drop in demand caused by the pandemic anyone would suggest that what Heathrow needs now is expansion. Especially given that, because airports force airlines to put planes in the air to keep their slots, nearly 5000 near empty “ghost flights” have taken off from Heathrow since the start of COVID. On top of all this, no climate scientist worthy of the name thinks we have any airport expansion left in our “carbon budget.” Flights will have to be reduced and rich boy, yuppie, frequent flyers will have to be a thing of the past. What do we need a new runway for exactly?! So, come the next climate breakdown induced pandemic, the one plane landing each hour will have a 3rd runway to choose from? So we can have 7500 empty flights leaving the airport rather than only 5000?! Still, powerful players in the airport game won’t drop it. The promise of big money has a strange habit of destroying our brains’ ability to process basic logic. 

As workers we need to start putting our foot down on this issue. A good place to start might be forcing unions to withdraw their support for the 3rd runway. It’s getting embarrassing for them. Even local Conservative councils are changing their tune and coming out against the plans. Pressuring unions to do the same would be a step in the right direction. If you feel the same way, get in touch. 

People that live or work around Heathrow can all vouch for the fact that one of the nicest side effects of the pandemic was the cleaner air and quieter skies. If flights do have to be reduced it isn’t such a bad thing. But in our society, it does throw up a problem. What do we do if planes aren’t taking off? We’ve seen what happens if planes stop flying and workers aren’t organised and unified enough to resist. The bosses sack us and attack our pay and conditions. But, there are alternatives. Even during the bleakest part of the pandemic the airport was still an extremely significant site. Air freight demand rose sharply due to disruption to cheaper forms of transportation and thousands of tons of PPE were arriving from China and elsewhere. Although greatly reduced passenger flights were still taking off. If workers acted together we could have stopped the jobs massacre, protected our pay and reduced our working hours. Likewise, when it comes to organising the reduction of aviation, we have sway and political power that we can exercise to demand that the costs of saving the planet are not forced onto workers. In fact, we could go further and come together to reorganise the local economy, so we might step away from our dependence on our ever expanding airport. The airport will likely always be there and workers will always be able to create meaningful, productive work in servicing it. But we don’t have to be slaves to it. When we discover that its continued growth is having serious detrimental effects on our local and global community we shouldn’t feel blackmailed into choosing between our jobs or the environment. We should use our very real collective power to take control of our workplaces and decide how we want to run them. At the very least, it’s well within our power to demand that local workers have extensive access to retraining opportunities in greener energy, transportation and manufacturing industries.

Luton and Bristol airports are also facing plans for unnecessary and dangerous expansion. Workers combining across airports and borders is essential to permanently be able to push back against the big money interests lobbying for expansion. 

Cargo worker death at Terminal 3
On February 23rd, a cargo worker in their 70’s, employed by Dnata was crushed in a high loader and tragically died. It’s extremely sad and highlights how dangerous working at the airport can be. With staff shortages and workload pressures likely to be around for a while at Heathrow, we will need to make sure we’re not being put at risk. 
Over the last 6 months or so, workers in the port of Piraeus, Greece have been demonstrating and striking against unsafe working conditions. The port is extremely busy, taking huge amounts of mega container ships. In October 2021 a workers death led to a 7 day strike and a list of demands including greater staff numbers, reduced hours and a health and safety committee with workers participation. Similar to the situation at Heathrow, privatisation and outsourcing have led to a fragmentation of the workforce and a reduction in workers power and influence. Safety is increasingly being sacrificed to profit and productivity. Because of the workers continued struggle the port companies are making concessions and giving in to some their demands. Workers shouldn’t be dying on the job in this day and age. 

Interesting elsewhere!

Air Traffic Controllers in Poland 

Air Traffic Controllers in Poland have been refusing to accept pay cuts and unsafe working conditions and were threatening to resign en masse. The resignations were going to cause major disruption to hundreds of European flights, as airspace is already restricted due to war in Ukraine. A deal has now been struck. 

Baggage handlers in Amsterdam 

On 23rd April 150 KLM baggage handlers walked off the job for 3 hours without warning after being told some of their jobs would be outsourced. The threat of outsourcing was apparently the final straw as workers were already pissed off with pay and conditions. Police had to shut the road as queues were tailing out of the terminal and several days on the airline still hadn’t recovered. That’s workers’ power. While official strikes can be effective, companies usually have the time to prepare and take the sting out of the action. A wildcat strike- when workers just walk off the job, independently of the union or company- doesn’t give the company time to prepare and is way more effective. Which might be a reason for them being illegal in the UK. KLM was still having problems getting baggage to customers days after the strike. 

Luton

In January Luton passenger assistance workers secured a decent pay rise after two lots of strike action. Striking gets the goods. The front of house workers got 4.3% and HGV drivers 20%. But could HGV drivers bargaining power have been used to get more for different sets of workers? 

In April, after repeated payroll problems, Luton baggage handlers and check-in staff won 13 weeks sick pay and £100 compensation if their pay is late. All from just the threat of strike action.

Against Offshore Detention

Standing up to the Rwanda Deal and the British Border Regime

This article was written by our friends at the West London Resistance Collective! 

This month saw the announcement of the British government’s new immigration scheme in which asylum seekers are to be sent to Rwanda while their claims are processed. It is essential that we recognise this move towards offshore detention for what it is: an expansion of the criminalisation of migrants and refugees and an attempt to make the realities of global inequality invisible to the British public.

The £120 million plan has been put forward as a deterrent to unsafe channel crossings and against human trafficking and smuggling, and is a clear response to poll results criticising Johnson and Patel’s ability to limit channel crossings. While the Tories have touted the plan as “a global first”, setting a “new international standard”, offshore detention is nothing new. The plan is influenced by Australia’s ‘Pacific Solution’ of migrant and refugee detention on nearby former British and Australian colonies like Manus Island and Nauru, where harsh conditions abound, causing suicide attempts from children as young as seven years old. Israel has attempted to set up agreements to “process” asylum seekers in Rwanda and Uganda, and the EU and the US have invested vast amounts in border externalisation programmes, funding detention and processing centres throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and beyond.

We need to acknowledge this proposal for what it is: a further criminalisation of anyone trying to enter the UK, a ramping up of the border and incarceration regime. We must make clear that arguments about deterring migrants or limiting human trafficking are hollow. Making existing routes of migration more difficult invariably forces those seeking to migrate into more dangerous routes. When Boris Johnson states “our compassion may be infinite but our capacity to help people is not”, we must shine a light on both sides of the lie – British treatment of refugees and migrants has never been compassionate, and it is highly limited in practice: the UK’s total of 126,720 refugees pales in comparison to states like Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda, and Sudan, Turkey hosting 3.7 million, the others hosting over a million each.   

Narratives around limited capacity sustain a politics of austerity. They enforce a divide-and-rule tactic around those who “deserve” to be here and those who don’t. We must recognise how this undermines worker solidarity and obscures the history of British exploitation at home and abroad. Our resistance to the border regime must centre the rights and humanity of all regardless of status, and we must reject punishment, detention, and division as solutions to global social and economic problems. 

Immigration detention, like all incarceration, disappears people, not problems. By fighting against immigration detention, immigration raids, and calling for an end to the criminalisation of migrants and an end to the border, we emphasise global worker solidarity against capitalist exploitation. We must make it emphatically clear that the enemy doesn’t arrive by boat, but by limousine.  

The West London Resistance Collective seeks to build resistance to immigration enforcement and work with others to build relationships and awareness of our rights and protect our communities. Find us on Twitter @WestLdnAntiRaid or email us at westlondonresistancecollective@gmail.com to get involved.

Our Solidarity

With labour shortages in aviation causing mayhem in and around airports all over the globe, customers and curious onlookers will be wondering what has gone wrong, who is to blame and what can be done. 

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the global aviation industry’s bootlickers. Their stated mission is to “represent, lead and serve the aviation industry.” And after that garbled mess of confusion, they inform us that they wish to “improve understanding of the air transport industry among decision makers….” So what words of wisdom do they have at this time of post-pandemic severe staffing shortages in aviation? Boot Licker in Chief at IATA and former British Airways CEO Willie Walsh informs us that the shortages are caused by factors “completely out of the airports’ and airlines’ control.” Not ‘slightly’ or even ‘largely’ but “completely” out of their control. The IATA is lucky the “decision makers” in the media and government that they are seeking to “improve the understanding” of, are so gullible and passive. Workers are not so easily duped. The IATA blames security clearance checks for the backlog in new starters getting to the frontline. Like security checks are a new thing that airlines couldn’t possibly have predicted!“ In most cases you can’t even start training these people until they have security clearance” he adds. No….No you can’t Willie. It’s not exactly rocket science but it’s obviously beyond the understanding of your average corporate CEO. 

Another of the IATA’s mission statements is to advocate “for the interests of airlines across the globe, we challenge unreasonable rules and charges, hold regulators and governments to account, and strive for sensible regulation.” It appears they are pretty good at this as no sooner had Walsh uttered these remarks than the faithful lapdogs in government came and delivered his slippers for him. On 29th April, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted “I am committed to supporting the aviation industry as it bounces back from the pandemic. That’s why I’m changing the law so it has more flexibility when training new employees. This won’t compromise safety, but will help to fill vacancies more quickly to meet demand.” The speed with which governments are willing to change laws when corporations are in trouble was not matched when workers were being sacked en masse during the pandemic. “Fire and rehire” tactics by bosses would be relatively easy to outlaw but still hasn’t been.  

The point is, the IATA knows why the shortages are happening but out of solidarity for their class, they can’t point out the obvious- that airlines got carried away in their blood-thirsty attacks on workers during the pandemic and customers and companies are now suffering because of it. 

We have to start showing the same unswerving solidarity for our class, if we’re to stop atrocious mass sackings like at P&O happening again. 800 workers just sacked without a shred of consideration for the law because they know they’ll get away with, and that we haven’t got the solidarity needed to stop them. There were glimmers of what could be. Reports of some agency workers employed to replace the sacked workers walked off the job and dockworkers in Rotterdam refused to load P&O ships. But blockades in the UK were insufficient and collective direct action has quickly given way to individual legal challenges. Likewise, with the war in Ukraine, pockets of workers have shown what could be done to help workers elsewhere. Dockworkers in Liverpool and Kent refused to unload Russian oil or gas from ships entering their ports. Yet the types of mass actions that helped to end the bloodshed of WW1 look a long way off. 

The work we do sustains and reproduces the system that mugs us off everyday. Whether it’s meagre pay rises, energy price hikes, raised taxes, endless wars or ridiculous rents, the work we do keeps the whole thing afloat. Voting for this or that party or hoping a government changes the law for us isn’t enough. We don’t need to build partnerships with the bosses or politicians. By building the power as workers, to choose how and when we work, we can fight on our own terms and start tackling some of our biggest issues, in solidarity with each other. 

Heathrow Solidarity Network have been out leafleting the local area. Calls are coming in and we’re fighting with workers having problems with landlords and issues at work. We’re also hoping to take on the “hostile environment” by teaming up with the West London Resistance Collective to help out those with migrants rights issues. 

If you would like to contribute to our future newsletters or get involved with our network, get in touch! 

Email- heathrowworkers@protonmail.com

Call or text- 07518 573068

Facebook- Heathrow Solidarity Network 

Twitter- @heathrowworkers

Against Offshore Detention

This piece was written by our comrades from the West London Resistance Collective. They will be holding a new-joiners Zoom meeting on Friday 6th May at 18:30. Get in touch if you want to go along. Their contact details and a QR code to their Anti-Raid Whatsapp group are at the bottom of the article.


Standing up to the Rwanda Deal and the British Border Regime

This month saw the announcement of the British government’s new immigration scheme in which asylum seekers are to be sent to Rwanda while their claims are processed. It is essential that we recognise this move towards offshore detention for what it is: an expansion of the carceral treatment of migrants and refugees and an attempt to make the realities of global inequality invisible to the British public.

The £120 million plan has been put forward as a deterrent to unsafe channel crossings and against human trafficking and smuggling, and is a clear response to poll results criticising Johnson and Patel’s ability to limit channel crossings. While the Tories have touted the plan as “a global first”, setting a “new international standard”, offshore detention is nothing new. The plan is influenced by Australia’s ‘Pacific Solution’ of migrant and refugee detention on nearby former British and Australian colonies like Manus Island and Nauru, where harsh conditions abound, causing suicide attempts from children as young as seven years old. Israel has attempted to set up agreements to “process” asylum seekers in Rwanda and Uganda, and the EU and the US have invested vast amounts in border externalisation programmes, funding detention and processing centres throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and beyond.

We need to acknowledge this proposal for what it is: a further criminalisation of anyone trying to enter the UK, a ramping up of the border and incarceration regime, and a clear example of what Harsha Walia terms border imperialism. We must make clear that arguments about deterring migrants or limiting human trafficking are hollow. Making existing routes of migration more difficult invariably forces those seeking to migrate into more dangerous routes. When Boris Johnson states “our compassion may be infinite but our capacity to help people is not”, we must shine a light on both sides of the lie – British treatment of refugees and migrants has never been compassionate, and it is highly limited in practice: the UK’s total of 126,720 refugees pales in comparison to states like Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda, and Sudan, Turkey hosting 3.7 million, the others hosting over a million each.   

Narratives around limited capacity serve to maintain neoliberal politics of scarcity and lack of investment in public services, and enforce a divide-and-rule tactic around those who “deserve” to be here and those who don’t. We must recognise how this undermines internationalist solidarity and ignores the dependence of British wealth on exploitation at home and around the world. Our resistance to the border regime must centre the rights and humanity of all regardless of status, and we must reject carceral solutions to global social and economic problems. Offshore detention is the epitome of what Angela Davis notes as the ideological function of the prison: “it relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and global capitalism”.

Immigration detention, like all incarceration, disappears people, not problems. By fighting against immigration detention, immigration raids, and calling for an end to the criminalisation of migrants and an end to the border, we emphasise global worker solidarity against capitalist exploitation and imperialism. We must make it emphatically clear that the enemy doesn’t arrive by boat, but by limousine.  

The West London Resistance Collective seeks to build resistance to immigration enforcement and work with others to build relationships and awareness of our rights and protect our communities. Find us on Twitter @WestLdnAntiRaid or email us at westlondonresistancecollective@gmail.com to get involved.

Get involved in Heathrow Solidarity Network!

We’re a bunch of AngryWorkers in and around Heathrow Airport. We started a solidarity network for local workers because:

1. We want to  fight on all fronts: job cuts and crap at work, problems with landlords, as well as a cost of living crisis. We need a foot in both camps, inside and outside of workplaces , to help develop stronger working class responses and self-defence. 

2. There have been various disputes at the airport recently: Menzies, Vanderlande, DO&CO etc. We want to support future strikes, but we need to get to know local workers and build up some more solid connections with them. When things kick off, the  Solidarity Networkis a way to extend contacts and share information on the basis of mutual trust inside workplaces. 

3. It’s a way to build an independent and clued up network in the area – without lawyers and bureaucrats exploiting us.

4. It’s a way to build local confidence: we can take on bosses and landlords without a big professional apparatus behind us, and win.

Calls are coming in. A local Heathrow Airport worker has been in touch about a landlord who is withholding his deposit for non-existent damages. Another airport security worker got in touch about being unfairly dismissed. 

With Heathrow being a prime location for deportation flights, we  will also be working with West London Resistance Collective against raids on migrants and deportation. We also want to collaborate with groups campaigning against Heathrow Expansion – workers need to fight against the jobs vs. the planet trap. 

Whatever your skills or time capacity, there will be something for you to do – from putting up posters, giving out leaflets, meeting up with workers who get in touch, writing letters, doing some casework, writing articles, interviewing local workers, coordinating actions…

If you want to get involved, email us and we’ll have a chat!

heathrowworkers@protonmail.com 

Downfall- The Case Against Boeing. Awful- The Case Against Netflix.

Media outlets have heaped great praise on the Netflix documentary, ‘Downfall: The Case Against Boeing.’ And the ratings haven’t been bad either. Its made it into the Netflix Top 10 most watched list. No mean feat for such a narrowly focused documentary. The film certainly does a great job of sympathetically depicting the anguish of the bereaved relatives of the 364 victims of this disgusting, corporate crime. The commitment of the families to their loved ones, skilfully presented in the Rory Kennedy directed movie, undeniably stirs feelings of anger and dismay at the injustice suffered by so many innocent people. 

The documentary examines the decision and events leading to the crashes of two 737-MAX aircraft within five months of each other (Lion Air flight from Jakarta 29th October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa 10th March). The 737-MAX, we discover, was developed in a hurry to compete with the more efficient aircraft being produced by Boeing’s rival, Airbus. In the haste, a fundamental design flaw was engineered into the aircraft. Due to the new, more powerful engines being fitted to the decades old 737 body and wings, a system needed to be added to prevent excessive lift to the nose of the aircraft. The Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) was fitted without informing the pilots and with only one point of failure. When the system failed, it sent the planes into a catastrophic nose dive that pilots were powerless to correct. 

After the first crash, the company attempted to shift blame onto ‘foreign’ airlines and pilots. With more than a whiff of racism, Boeing implied that a lack of understanding, training and professionalism was to blame. Pilots’ unions requested the planes be grounded, but Boeing reassured everyone that a software fix would patch the problem for now and that they were working on it. Amazingly, they were believed, and Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) did nothing. After the second crash, the aircraft was grounded while an investigation was started, but Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg – who looks suspiciously like Goldmember from Austin Powers 3 – continued to deny the problem and blame pilots. The documentary takes us through the consequent inquiry, families’ campaigning and congressional committees. Our indignation reaches a crescendo when the final frames inform us that Goldmember got a $62million handshake when leaving Boeing and the company was simply fined $2.5billion. 

Like all CEO’s, he loves GOOOLD!

For all the excellent detail and forensic examination, when it comes to looking at the overarching picture and making sense of how these tragic events came about, the documentary leads us away from reality to a fantasy land where an “admirable” firm of “incredible stature” and an “outstanding record on safety” is led astray by “cash on Wall Street.” There is comfort in this view. We can weed out bad apples. Rein in excessive forces within the system and seek solace in nostalgia for a past age that heroes can rebuild. From the very beginning, the film is framed in a way that needlessly narrows our perspective and obscures relevant information that would enhance our understanding. A Wall Street Journal journalist informs us that, “Boeing has had such a storied history and such an incredible stature in the industry.” And has been integral in ushering in the “safest period in aviation history.” Time and time again, the loss of this great company’s impeccable record on “safety” is bemoaned. 

The fact that Boeing is one of the biggest arms dealers in the world is never mentioned. Boeing regularly makes upwards of $20billion revenue a year in arms sales, maintenance and services. They’ve delivered contracts worth $22billion for Saudi Arabia in the last decade alone. Saudi Arabia is responsible for the bombardment of civilian targets in Yemen. The UAE, that is also implicated in these atrocities, is another recipient of Boeing’s weapons. Israel, whose repeated human rights abuses in Gaza and the West Bank are well documented, are, of course, another of Boeing’s customers. When Joe Biden made campaign promises to stop arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and when his administration made steps in that direction after gaining power, Boeing and Raytheon successfully lobbied lawmakers to change their minds. 

Even aside from the most egregious examples of arms sales, Boeing and other arms dealers use their huge resources to influence political systems in a way that make us all unsafe. US arms companies have spent $285million on campaign contributions and $2.5billion on lobbying over the last 20 years. The top 5 companies spent $60million on lobbying in 2020 alone. They don’t part with this money lightly. They expect a return on their investments. It’s not the only thing that increases militarism and war, but we’d be foolish to think that these payments don’t influence politics and make our lives less safe. As Raytheon and Lockheed Martin recently told their investors, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is good for business. In an earnings call on the 25th January 2022, Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes stated that, “….of course….. tensions in Eastern Europe… tensions in the South China Sea….. I fully expect we’re going to see some benefit from it.” While Boeing’s Chief Financial Officer Brian West didn’t mention Ukraine in a recent earnings call, he did say that, “in defence and space markets we’re seeing stable demand.” They “see strong bipartisan support for national security, including Boeing products and services….. security spending remains a priority given global threats.” These are some seriously dangerous incentives being flaunted in public. 

Military aviation is also a major contributor of global greenhouse gas emissions. The world’s militaries are responsible for around 6% of global emissions. With the biggest defence budget, the US is the main contributor to these and military aviation (and Boeing) play a big role in that total. As things stand, a loophole exists in the Paris Climate Change Agreement, that allow countries to exempt military emissions when calculating and reporting their levels of decarbonisation. Commercial aviation is projected to consume up to one-sixth of the temperature budget allocated to keep the planet below 1.5C warming. 

Boeing or any other aircraft manufacturer will produce as many planes as there is a market for. They will make planes until the last metals on earth are used up and the air is unbreathable, as long as there are people willing to buy them. Not because they have turned evil but because that is how companies operate in our system. The idea that a corporation could ever look out for our safety, except in the most narrow sense, is outrageous. Yet, this is what is stated and implied throughout the documentary. 

Genuine safety and security comes from empowered workers deciding what goes on in their workplaces and communities. Not because we are inherently more noble than CEO’s, but because we have a material interest in maintaining and improving our communities physical and mental health. When we see workers in this documentary, they are seen either impotently standing aghast while an undercover journalist informs them that important components are not being fitted to the aircraft; or they are talking about how powerless they were against management’s disregard for safety. The same workers state that, “it was an excellent company to work for”, and about the sense of pride they had when seen out and about in uniform and people would say, “you work for Boeing, that is wonderful.” 

The only collective voice that is discussed is that of the victims. The workers are helpless atoms, grafting away on the production line. Their potential collective power in challenging management’s disregard for safety isn’t considered. The long and hard strikes and disputes that litter Boeing’s history and were responsible for making this a “great company to work for” are ignored. The negligence in omission is even more clear when we consider that legal cases, against unfair dismissal and union busting behaviour at the new South Carolina plant, were in the media around the time of this documentary’s filming. Stretching back to a huge 20-week strike in 1948, workers at Boeing have continually fought to for their pay and conditions. The workers, building B52’s, have never did enough to challenge the company’s complicity in war crimes or environmental degradation, but things like the union’s funding of public housing projects in 1967, show that their power could have evolved into something that could have. 

Instead, workers’ collective power has diminished to such a degree, that it barely gets a mention in a documentary about the poor production of an aircraft. Alternatively, Republican congressmen and senators are held up as the heroes of the hour. The likes of Ted Cruz, a man with all the moral integrity of a wet sock, is put on a pedestal and presented as holding the wayward corporation to account. These are the very people that have pushed for and enabled the ‘financialisation’ of the corporate world, which this documentary blames for this tragedy. The story that is told is of a company that was marvellous until its 1996 merger with McDonnell-Douglas, which meant that Boeing was now a “financially driven company” and needed brave law makers to keep it in check. 

The misdirected anger and hypocrisy within the analysis is ridiculous. This was never a ‘good’ company, and complicit law makers are never our saviours. That, “….the safety culture at Boeing fell apart …. was corrupted from the top down by Wall Street….” may hold a nugget of truth. At least for commercial airliners. But it doesn’t take much investigation to find out that this, and any other corporation, puts profits before people on a regular basis. It’s almost as if, as soon as the safety risk shifts away from the victims of bombs, rising sea levels and air pollution to relatively affluent passenger jet users, only then does it become a problem worth discussing. 

The problem with this and so many other popular Netflix documentaries is that they have terrible politics. They’re either advocating consumer choices as the solution (Cowspiracy, Seaspiracy) or better top-down management of the problem (Social Network, Downfall), when what is needed is a complete change to the way we produce things. The only way this can be achieved in a way that benefits everyone is through working people collectively taking control in their workplaces and communities. Likewise, we shouldn’t expect corporations like Netflix to produce content that delivers the information we need. As entertaining as it can be, we have to do our own investigating and digging to find out the best way to interpret events. Aviation doesn’t have to be controlled by vast profit-hungry conglomerates. It could be organised by workers and the community in a way that suits our needs but doesn’t destroy our local or global environment. If the death of 364 people isn’t enough to bring about that realisation, maybe nothing will. 

If you have or haven’t watched Downfall yet, I hope this will helps you interpret and enjoy the movie for what it is. A very good, but wholly incomplete and misguided story.

Heathrow Solidarity Network

Email- heathrowworkers@protonmail.com

Call or text- 07518 573068

Facebook- Heathrow Solidarity Network 

Twitter- @heathrowworkers

Chats around Heathrow!

Over the last couple of months we’ve been leafleting local transit hubs, listening to workers, talking about issues, giving out our newsletter and offering support. When we’re sat on our own at work or at home, the problems we face can seem overwhelming and particular to us. But they are common to many of us and can be overcome by coming together to tackle them. Here’s a summary of some of the recent conversations we’ve had out and about.

A agency worker, working for Menzies, was being let go without due notice and was being messed around for money. He was trying to chase but was being passed backwards and forwards between Menzies and the agency. From what we could tell this was clearly against the law and could have been pursued by us. A threatening letter might have solved the situation. 

A lady that worked in the lounges as a host said they had issues with bullying. She works in lounges for airlines that don’t have a permanent presence at the airport. They are extremely overworked leading to a lot of people leaving. The gaps are filled by short term agency staff that are of no help as it takes so long to learn the job sufficiently. Seems a classic case of management being under the impression that this is a “low skilled” job and therefore can get away with treating staff poorly. We discussed how much the company would regret their treatment if key staff members didn’t turn up for work one day. 

We’ve spoken to a couple of bus drivers over the weeks. One wasn’t happy with the result of last summer’s pay dispute and also not pleased with the unions response to the companies proposal of remote sign-on (companies attempt to make bus drivers report to bus stops rather than depots at the start of shifts- increasing working hours and degrading conditions). He wanted bus drivers to collaborate across depots and companies but wasn’t optimistic about the prospects of it happening. This is exactly the sort of sentiment that we agree with and what to do our best to be an antedote to this pessimism. Another bus driver was really appreciative of us being out and offering support. He was disgusted by his companies 2.5% pay offer over two years. The offer has been rejected in one ballot and a indicative ballot (a frustrating ballot that is basically asking that if you were “officially” balloted for strike action would you vote yes) has been returned in favour of strike. They are now awaiting the “official” ballot. He said that plans for remote sign-on at his depot were shelved for the moment but expected them to be back at some point in the future. We’ll stand with bus drivers against insulting pay rises and attacks to their terms and conditions all day long. 

A local DHL warehouse worker was very enthusiastic about our group. He talked about being irritated by people’s unwillingness to work together to better our lot. “You work there, I work here, you live there, I live here…. what does it matter, let’s help each other.” He said DHL workers had plenty of issues- low pay, long hours, overwork- but didn’t know how to fightback. He was interested about how we felt about unions and was happy when we shared his anger at their limitations. He took a bunch of leaflets and said he would try and drum up support among his 200 strong workforce. Hopefully he has some success. 

A lady that works at draught tap manufacturer UDS said she had her sick pay taken away since the pandemic and resented management working from home. What really got her angry was the suspension of free bus fares around Heathrow. It increases her weekly travel costs immensely and with all the other increases in cost of living- energy bills, water, National Insurance rise, general inflation- its pushing her close to the edge. 

A young man was heading back from and clearly pissed off with his managers. He worked at a food distribution centre and said management are bully’s and speak to people like dirt. They are overworked and underpaid. As well as this he said a stack of bread had fallen on the floor and needed to be thrown away, but bosses told workers to load the bread anyway. We can help in these situations. Bosses shouldn’t be able to get away with this stuff. 

Another young guy was interested in our leaflet because the council wasn’t fixing his home. Workers living in substandard property is unacceptable. Only the best for workers. Anything less is a concession. This and everything else here, we are willing and able to help with. 

We don’t have all the answers, but we are willing to listen and do everything we can to make sure workers get a chance to stand on their own two feet and take control of their situation. If you need assistance or what to help out get in touch with the Heathrow Solidarity Network. 

Email- heathrowworkers@protonmail.com

Call or text- 07518 573068

Facebook- Heathrow Solidarity Network 

Twitter- @heathrowworkers

The Workers’ Runway- Newsletter No.6

This is the longer, online version, of the newsletter that we are distributing locally. Download below:-

Heathrow Staff Parking Charges!


Workers are being made to pay up to an extra 135% for the privilege of parking at work. From £57 a month for a parking pass, to £135! Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) say this is to make up for a £7 million shortfall caused by a drop in demand for parking passes. Most workers only alternative is public transport. This was made more expensive last year when HAL forced more losses onto workers by removing the free bus services around the airport. The £7 million shortfall is nothing to shareholders that have received £4 billion since 2012 and got £100 million paid out in April 2020! The GMB union has started a petition, written to MP’s and council leaders, but the campaign hasn’t advanced much further. Workers have been balloted 3 times but aside from 400 people signing the petition and a couple of letters, no pressure has been applied to the bosses. 

If the union’s aren’t getting the job done, we need to get together and do it ourselves. Let us know what’s happening where you are. Has this affected you? How has the union performed? How can we escalate the dispute? 

British Airways Cabin Crew Recruitment?! 

British Airways have tied the knot on their obvious and predictable “back door fire and rehire scheme,” that they started in spring 2020. The first part of this not so secret plot was to aggressively demand that shell-shocked staff accept large reductions in pay and conditions or face the sack. The next phase was to continue to plead extreme poverty to staff and demand huge redundancies, while simultaneously with their other face, reassuring shareholders of the companies cash reserves and healthy liquidity. The company was never in much actual difficulty. Banks will lend almost indefinitely to a company like BA. There will always be UK aviation and no matter what the circumstances, when all the other smaller airlines have folded, one of the last standing will almost certainly be BA. And now, barely a year after making 4700 cabin crew redundant and not even a month after furlough has finished, BA are attempting to rehire 3000 crew, on contracts far inferior to the ones they left on. 

While some of the media are parroting BA spokespeople, saying that the announcement is positive news, that BA are drawing on their “talent pool” and that workers should basically feel lucky for the jobs, the Financial Times is much closer to reality when it reports that “…the new BA hires and the potential new subsidiary from Gatwick reflect how airline bosses will look to rebuild their workforce’s and operations, while cementing the considerable cost savings achieved during the pandemic.” 

These latest developments clearly expose the mass attacks on jobs and contracts at BA for what they always were- barefaced opportunism. Simply an opportunity to do what companies are always looking to do- reduce labour costs as much as possible. While companies profits return to “normal,” workers pay and conditions, will be expected to stay where they are- cemented down below their pre-pandemic levels. 

Why should this be tolerated? As things pick up and bargaining power increases, we should remember what’s happened and figure out how we can reflect it in our demands. 

Alitalia workers fight for jobs in Italy!
On 20th October we held a public Zoom meeting with workers at Italian airline Alitalia. They are fighting to save jobs and pay and conditions, in the wake of the companies far reaching restructure. Alitalia is to be broken up into 3 sections and renamed ITA Airways. The new company came into being on the 15th October 2021 and huge job losses are already being endured in the handling division, while aircraft maintenance is apparently being outsourced to private companies. National agreements around pay and conditions are not being honoured and staff transferring or being rehired by ITA are signing up on inferior terms. 

This has obviously all been decided upon with little or no worker input. The Italian government, which owns ITA Airways, would likely claim that workers voices have been heard and use union leaderships agreement to the plan as evidence. Union officials in Italy, as they often are in the UK, are probably convinced to agree with the bosses plans, by promises of more members and national recognition agreements, that give the unions guaranteed dues and prestige. This however, is of course, no substitute for workers genuine involvement and agreement. Since demand for aviation has picked up a little, workers have responded to the plans with a number of official strikes, but these actions are hampered by managements awareness of them long in advance. 

The workers we spoke to on the 20th are with an independent worker collective called Tutti A Bordo (Everyone on Board). The group is made up of militant workers from different departments that have come together, irrespective of their job roles and union membership, in an attempt to provide a forum for workers to develop and put forward their authentic demands. Not an easy task but their efforts are admirable. The group has made a point of trying to get workers on the streets in a militant fashion. Demonstrating inside airports, attempting to occupy the ITA HQ and blocking a main road to Rome’s airport. All this makes a stark contrast to the relatively subdued recent disputes at Heathrow. Alitalia stand to lose as many as 10,000 workers. That’s the same amount that British Airways have made redundant since the pandemic. In spite of the similarities in scale, the prospect of blocked roads, occupations and all out strikes at Heathrow has always seemed very distant.

They are not the only workers looking to combine their efforts against the bosses attacks in the aftermath of Covid. In Italy an array of what are called “base unions” has developed. These unions tend to pride themselves on being more militant and encouraging much more rank and file participation within the organisation. These unions called for a “general strike” on 11th October, uniting struggles from many different workplaces and industries. Disputes at Ex-Ilva, Jindal Piombino, Whirlpool, Flextronics, Almaviva, Stellantis and Sevel were all drawn upon. On the day, 10’s of thousands of workers participated in the strike, ports and roads were blockaded and demonstrations were held across Italy. The workers we spoke to were quite clear however that the 11th October had serious limitations and alongside the GKN workers, expressed commitment to building towards a much bigger and more effective general strike, that draws in far more workers. 

Port workers, air or sea, have always got lots of power. When supply-chain’s appear to be under pressure, as they do at the moment, they have even more power. If people and stuff doesn’t get to where it needs to be, it can have serious effects on companies and throughout the economy in general. The most successful labour dispute at Heathrow during the pandemic was the strike at BA Cargo. The Cargo workers got most of their demands met. BA workers in other departments had to accept mass redundancies and large cuts to pay and benefits. With a better organised workplace, the increased bargaining power at BA Cargo, could have been utilised for the benefit of workers at the whole company and beyond. Global supply chains seem fragile and workers should make the most of it. 

Another impressive worker collective is the west coast port workers organisation- Collettivo Autonomo Lavoratori Portuali. They participated in the 11th October general strike and are best known for refusing to load ships at their ports, that they discover are holding arms earmarked for use on civilians in places like Yemen and Palestine. These kind of actions are a crucial part of workers self defence and hold the promise of a transformed economy within them- workers deciding what gets to circulate the globe, not capitalists. The connections and trust built up by port and all logistics workers acts of solidarity, could be a critical part of bringing together working class people across borders. This is one of the reasons we feel it’s so important to organise at Heathrow and the surrounding area. We need more workers here realising the power and agency they have to help enact the profound changes needed, to give people control of their daily lives and protect our environment from the inherent logics of capitalist production. This knowledge is empowering and should give pride and purpose to work that the bosses make boring, frustrating and often demeaning. How do we want to spend our days? “Today, most of the work we carried out, was loading planes with crap that people don’t need, to make people, that probably hate us, richer….” Or “Today, to support fellow working class people on strike thousands of miles away, we refused to load a plane, while working fast and efficiently to transport essential goods for a worker run health service equally as far away…..” 

An issue, external to the immediate struggle, that has made an impression on it, is the fight against the green pass (Italy’s vaccine passport). Workers are expected to produce a green pass as proof they have been vaccinated or be force to pay for regular Covid tests before they can enter the workplace. Many workers are resisting the scheme, but, as it is in the UK, it is appears a divisive issue. Speaking in a personal capacity, as the Tutti A Bordo collective doesn’t have a unified opinion on the topic as yet, workers told us that it should be viewed as part of the general attack on the working class. That companies are using the green pass to circumvent costly health and safety measures, like social distancing and PPE. Matters are complicated by the fact that the green pass debate has drawn people into the orbit of these workers who are not very helpful when your trying to build a working class movement. Small business owners, spoilt little rich kids, conspiracy enthusiasts, and even fascist elements have all jumped on the anti-green pass bandwagon. Messaging can get jumbled and direction can be lost, in such a menagerie of motivations. But situations like this can also provide opportunities for people to be exposed to a class perspective that will be helpful in future struggles. People could be brought into a battle by fears of satanic cults injecting microchips into our bloodstreams and leave with a far better understanding of how power operates in a capitalist society. 

The motto of the workers at Tutti A Bordo and GKN was used by resistance fighters against fascism during the war- Insorgiamo. It means “let’s rise up.” We should all do our best to learn from the experiences of workers in Italy and do all we can to help them. Follow them on social media and send them your solidarity. What other ways might we be able to help? What do you think of the situation in Italy in comparison to our situation at Heathrow? We will be following the situation closely and attempting to build support for a solidarity action here in the UK. Get in touch if you want to get involved! Insorgiamo Heathrow!!!

Jet Zero Consultation

In July 2021 the Department of Transport published their proposals for achieving net zero carbon emissions in aviation by 2050. This was a part of the preparations for the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow. You’ll be surprised to hear that it’s all bollocks. Apparently passenger miles will be able to double by 2050, while greenhouse gas emissions remain constant. The predictions for how this will be achieved rely heavily on, no word of a lie, as yet unachieved technological breakthroughs in sustainable bio-fuels (SAFs), carbon capture, hydrogen and zero emissions flights (electric, solar etc.). It reads as one big gamble with our future. The proposals were drawn up by the Jet Zero Council. By their own admission “a partnership between industry and government to bring together ministers and chief executive officer-level stakeholders…..” The council membership list reads like a who’s who of people we shouldn’t listen to when we’re thinking about aviation and its impact on the environment. From the list of members you can easily predict the proposals and conclusions. The basic message is “carry on as usual, we’ve got people working on it.” We shouldn’t waste time pretending that these people can be convinced to act any other way or that they are even fully in control of how this will all pan out. As long as, profits need to constantly expand and reproduce itself, is not replaced by people democratically deciding what our needs are and producing according to them, our mental and environmental health will continue to decline. 

In the UK (and it’s similar across the world) 70% of flights are taken by only 15% of the population, while most years over 50% don’t fly at all. The average income of that 15% is £115,000. The dire futures predicted by the vast majority of climate scientists won’t be averted by appealing to the members of the Jet Zero Council. The techno-fix isn’t going to solve our problem as they tell us. The honest truth is that people need to fly less. As most of the flights are taken by the wealthy, this isn’t something workers should be concerned about. Some form of rationing is required. Distributed fairly and not just on your ability to pay. As workers we can think of ways to force this into happening and not accept the “jobs or climate” blackmail. This shouldn’t result in job losses or working people penalised in anyway to protect the profits of shareholders. Working class people can bring this about but we’ll need to get organised and work together. The unions role in agreeing to businesses demands for constant aviation sector growth will need to be challenged. Those benefiting from the system will try and convince us we can carry on as usual. We will be subjected to many more cringe inducing adverts, using children as emotional fodder, like the recent Climate Pledge effort, which, we are informed at the end, is paid for by Amazon, co-founder of the Climate Pledge. Get on the bus, go on a train, sit in a cinema and you’ll be bombarded with advertising designed to play on our heart strings and convince us that the corporations are handling everything just fine. And if Covid restrictions on flights continue to be rolled back we will be asked to return to “normal.” Keep shopping, keep buying, keep flying. Recent media coverage around COP26 has been painful. BBC pieces, uncritically regurgitating corporate propaganda around the wonders of carbon capture technology and future “guilt-free” supersonic flights fuelled by SAF’s. 

At Heathrow we should know what to make of these promises. At every turn, since the inception of the airport, airlines and governing bodies have insisted that there will be no more expansions and have every time been proven liars. The construction of terminal 4 and terminal 5 faced heavy opposition from locals due to concerns over noise, air pollution and destruction of habitats. Before each was constructed they were given assurances that no further expansion would be pursued. And now the same authorities are pushing hard for a 3rd runway and a 6th terminal. It is never enough. If the whole of the Thames Valley was a landing strip, it still wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the insatiable appetite and parasitic nature of money. Take a look at aerial photos of Heathrow over time and you get a visual representation of this process in action. Lush green countryside consumed, step by step, by an ever expanding grey mass, polluting and devouring its host and destroying the basis of its own existence. The climate crisis in microcosm. Just as we shouldn’t be appealing to corporations to solve the climate crisis they created, we shouldn’t appeal to the media to report on it properly. After all, they are corporations and can’t be trusted to. An alternative is workers creating their own media, that reflects our values and interests. Do our own research and reporting for our own sake, not to make a buck out of it. We all have knowledge and experience that needs to be shared and that would be enriched by the debate and discussion it could create. Workers can develop the power and skills necessary to reshape the way we produce. And if we want to maintain an environment capable of supporting us, we will have to! 

Remote Sign-on!
Bus drivers all over London and beyond are facing major attacks on the way they work. Companies are looking to impose remote sign-on. A practice that requires drivers to report to a particular bus stop rather than a bus depot at the beginning of each shift. It will not only mean being at the companies beck and call, more hours for less money and a decline in access to toilet and rest facilities but potentially paves the way to the full “casualisation” of the job. Bus drivers being completely “self employed” and stripped of the benefits of being employed is a predictable outcome of this practice. Speaking with bus drivers on our leafleting sessions it appears the company Metroline has already pushed the changes through and others are in the process. When are ballots going out for strike? How can we support the bus drivers?

Whose Solidarity?!
On Monday 8th November, to celebrate the restarting of long-haul flights to the US, British Airways and Virgin put their rivalries aside and staged a simultaneous take-off from Heathrow. The seemingly bitter adversaries decided the media attention attracted by the stunt made this rare collaboration worthwhile. The rich know when to show class solidarity for one another and work together when needs be. 

Heathrow Solidarity Network is trying to help build and develop our own, workers solidarity. When bosses or landlords start messing with our fellow workers, our class, we should be getting together and fighting back. If you need help with unpaid wages, bullying or discrimination at work, landlord trouble, we offer to do what we can as workers to help. Contact us on the details below. If you just want to share some information or get involved with what we’re doing, get in touch. We hold regular leaflet sessions at local transit hubs. See you around. 

Email- heathrowworkers@protonmail.com

Call or text- 07518 573068

Facebook- Heathrow Solidarity Network 

Twitter- @heathrowworkers

Website- https://heathrowworkerspower.wordpress.com/

Alitalia Meeting Summary!

Alitalia workers in confrontations with police while blocking roads to Rome’s airport!


On 20th October we held a public Zoom meeting with workers at Italian airline Alitalia. They are fighting to save jobs and pay and conditions, in the wake of the companies far reaching restructure. Alitalia is to be broken up into 3 sections and renamed ITA Airways. The new company came into being on the 15th October 2021 and huge job losses are already being endured in the handling division, while aircraft maintenance is apparently being outsourced to private companies. National agreements around pay and conditions are not being honoured and staff transferring or being rehired by ITA are signing up on inferior terms.

The restructure is part of a European wide plan, with the involvement of the European Commission, to allow for only three main intercontinental carriers out of Europe and for these to be based out of France and Germany. Alitalia’s diminishing and breaking up, is in part to make room for these larger European airline companies and to encourage the expansion of low-cost/budget airlines nationally. This has obviously all been decided upon with little or no worker input. The Italian government, which owns ITA Airways, would likely claim that workers voices have been heard and use union leaderships agreement to the plan as evidence. Union officials in Italy, as they often are in the UK, are probably convinced to agree with the bosses plans, by promises of more members and national recognition agreements, that give the unions guaranteed dues and prestige. This however, is of course, no substitute for workers genuine involvement and agreement. Since demand for aviation has picked up a little, workers have responded to the plans with a number of official strikes, but these actions are hampered by managements awareness of them long in advance. The workers we spoke to on the 20th are with an independent worker collective called Tutti A Bordo (Everyone on Board). The name is simultaneously a call for unity across the airline and a demand that all staff should keep their jobs. The group is made up of militant workers from different departments that have come together, irrespective of their job roles and union membership, in an attempt to provide a forum for workers to develop and put forward their authentic demands. Not an easy task but their efforts are admirable. The group has made a point of trying to get workers on the streets in a militant fashion. Demonstrating inside airports, attempting to occupy the ITA HQ and blocking a main road to Rome’s airport. All this makes a stark contrast to the relatively subdued recent disputes at Heathrow. Alitalia stand to lose as many as 10,000 workers. That’s the same amount that British Airways have made redundant since the pandemic. In spite of the similarities in scale, the prospect of blocked roads, occupations and all out strikes at Heathrow has always seemed very distant. Tutti A Bordo doesn’t claim to have any great power at this time. It doesn’t have the ability to call a strike for example, but they are no less an important focal point in the struggle. They have also developed a significant partnership with another worker collective fighting the closure of their factory at GKN in Florence (Collectivo di Fabbrica- Lavoratori GKN Firenze). The groups of workers from different companies and sectors are demonstrating, blockading, occupying and striking together. 

They are not the only workers looking to combine their efforts against the bosses attacks in the aftermath of Covid. In Italy an array of what are called “base unions” has developed. These unions tend to pride themselves on being more militant and encouraging much more rank and file participation within the organisation. These unions called for a “general strike” on 11th October, uniting struggles from many different workplaces and industries. Disputes at Ex-Ilva, Jindal Piombino, Whirlpool, Flextronics, Almaviva, Stellantis and Sevel were all drawn upon. On the day, 10’s of thousands of workers participated in the strike, ports and roads were blockaded and demonstrations were held across Italy. The workers we spoke to were quite clear however that the 11th October had serious limitations and alongside the GKN workers, expressed commitment to building towards a much bigger and more effective general strike, that draws in far more workers. Again, with echoes of the situation in the UK, the number and nature of the unions was a severe impediment in the strike. The mainstream unions, that still have the majority of members in Italy, did not support the general strike. The base unions that did support the strike are often, politically, on very different pages from each other, which can inhibit collaboration. They can also, like their mainstream cousins, sometimes be more concerned with the preservation and expansion of their particular organisation, rather than linking up with others in the interests of working class people in general. Tutti A Bordo is taking a sensible approach and seeking to build connections between workers that will get them to walk out in support of one another, no matter what the union leaderships may wish. 

Port workers, air or sea, have always got lots of power. When supply-chain’s appear to be under pressure, as they do at the moment, they have even more power. If people and stuff doesn’t get to where it needs to be, it can have serious effects on companies and throughout the economy in general. The most successful labour dispute at Heathrow during the pandemic was the strike at BA Cargo. The Cargo workers got most of their demands met. BA workers in other departments had to accept mass redundancies and large cuts to pay and benefits. With a better organised workplace, the increased bargaining power at BA Cargo, could have been utilised for the benefit of workers at the whole company and beyond. In the current Alitalia dispute the situation is a little different in that Alitalia no longer handles cargo. Cargo services are carried out by different companies mainly through Malpensa airport, Milan. Workers in cargo have shown solidarity with the Alitalia workers but to what extent is unclear. Hopefully the collaboration can be expanded. Global supply chains seem fragile and workers should make the most of it. Another impressive worker collective is the west coast port workers organisation- Collettivo Autonomo Lavoratori Portuali. They participated in the 11th October general strike and are best known for refusing to load ships at their ports, that they discover are holding arms earmarked for use on civilians in places like Yemen and Palestine. These kind of actions are a crucial part of workers self defence and hold the promise of a transformed economy within them- workers deciding what gets to circulate the globe, not capitalists. The connections and trust built up by port and all logistics workers acts of solidarity, could be a critical part of bringing together working class people across borders. This is one of the reasons we feel it’s so important to organise at Heathrow and the surrounding area. We need more workers here realising the power and agency they have to help enact the profound changes needed, to give people control of their daily lives and protect our environment from the inherent logics of capitalist production. This knowledge is empowering and should give pride and purpose to work that the bosses make boring, frustrating and often demeaning. How do we want to spend our days? “Today, most of the work we carried out, was loading planes with crap that people don’t need, to make people, that probably hate us, richer….” Or “Today, to support fellow working class people on strike thousands of miles away, we refused to load a plane, while working fast and efficiently to transport essential goods for a worker run health service equally as far away…..” 

Aviation workers can also play an important role in the battle to return our environment to health. It can appear daunting but should also be empowering. As yet, environmental concerns have not entered into the dispute at Alitalia. When we spoke with Tutti A Bordo they said that they were obviously concerned with the environment and well aware of the contradictory position climate conscious aviation workers find themselves in, but that they hadn’t managed to incorporate the issue in the struggle so far. They said one of the main reasons for being against budget airlines was that they help to produce excessive polluting flights. The pandemic has shown us what the “essential” work in society is. Society carried on pretty well with only about 40% of people going to work. In aviation we’ve seen that lots of the air traffic is quite unnecessary and harmful. Business flights have plummeted and the temptation for airlines will be to ramp up demand for leisure travel. Unless we can begin to use our positions at work to put environmental concerns at the centre of how we run aviation, the likelihood of genuine change is slim.

Another issue, external to the immediate struggle, that has made an impression on it, is the fight against the green pass (Italy’s vaccine passport). Workers are expected to produce a green pass as proof they have been vaccinated or be force to pay for regular Covid tests before they can enter the workplace. Many workers are resisting the scheme, but, as it is in the UK, it appears a divisive issue. Speaking in a personal capacity, as the Tutti A Bordo collective doesn’t have a unified opinion on the topic as yet, workers told us that it should be viewed as part of the general attack on the working class. That companies are using the green pass to circumvent costly health and safety measures, like social distancing and PPE. Matters are complicated by the fact that the green pass debate has drawn people into the orbit of these workers who are not very helpful when your trying to build a working class movement. Small business owners, spoilt little rich kids, conspiracy enthusiasts, and even fascist elements have all jump on the anti-green pass bandwagon. Messaging can get jumbled and direction can be lost, in such a menagerie of motivations. But situations like this can also provide opportunities for people to be exposed to a class perspective that will be helpful in future struggles. People could be brought into a battle by fears of satanic cults injecting microchips into our bloodstreams and leave with a far better understanding of how power operates in a capitalist society. Committed fascists will likely be the toughest nuts to crack and have to just be wholly rejected.

The motto of the workers at Tutti A Bordo and GKN was used by resistance fighters against fascism during the war- Insorgiamo. It means “let’s rise up.” We should all do our best to learn from the experiences of workers in Italy and do all we can to help them. Follow them on Facebook and send them your solidarity. What other ways might we be able to help? What do you think of the situation in Italy in comparison to our situation at Heathrow? We will be following the situation closely and attempting to build support for a solidarity action here in the UK. Get in touch and get involved! Insorgiamo Heathrow!!!

Facebook:-

Tutti A Bordo – no al piano ITA 

Heathrow Workers Power

Twitter:-

@heathrowworkers

Email:-

heathrowworkers@protonmail.com

Public Meeting with Alitalia workers fighting job losses!  

Everyone on board!!!


Wednesday 20th October at 7pm (BST)

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88184235766

All over the globe, since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, bosses have been trying to push losses onto workers and capitalise on this crisis. Aviation workers at Alitalia in Italy are facing massive job losses. Base unions and worker collectives across Italy are attempting to link up different struggles, in different industries!

Join us for an interesting chat with an Alitalia worker! We work in and around Heathrow and are starting a local solidarity network. What can we learn from the experience of aviation workers in Italy? How did the October 11th general strike go? And how could we support them in their efforts and link up common struggles?!!! 

Heathrow Workers Power

Email:- heathrowworkers@protonmail.com

Twitter:- @heathrowworkers

Facebook:- Heathrow Workers Power

Call or text:- 07340 082667

WE SUPPORT ALITALIA WORKERS AGAINST ITA PROJECT 

During the last weeks the struggle of Alitalia workers against ITA project has dramatically increased. The Italian government, with the EU support, has decided to erase the Italian historical airline to start up a small airline with a few aircraft, no handling, no maintenance and not a chance to take off! A downsizing plan that has only one certainty: the layoff of thousand workers. We support this important struggle, we support Alitalia workers that during the last months crowded the streets of Rome making public the liability of Italian and European policies favoring the multinational corporation. We stand with all Alitalia employees for the removal of the Ita industrial plan and its re-definition, with their approval, of a new, concrete and public project to re-launch Alitalia, which guarantees full employment, rights and wages for all workers, also by means of a new model of Union representation, where workers can actually decide about their future.

Tutti A Bordo (Everyone on board)!No Layoffs!Down with the ITA plan!We are all Alitalia!

Heathrow Workers Power

Heathrow Meeting!

Hello everyone 

We would like to invite you to a meeting to discuss plans for a local action group at Heathrow. 

When:- 7pm Thursday 16th September 2021

Where:- On Zoom

How:- If you would like to attend, email us @ heathrowworkers@protonmail.com and we will send you the Zoom link. 

What’s been happening?! 

Workers reliant on aviation, have been through a lot since the outbreak of the pandemic. Most have either been through a redundancy process, had their pay and conditions attacked, lost all their overtime, been on furlough or all of the above. Last year, high profile disputes broke out at British Airways (BA) and Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL). The main cause of the stand offs were the companies attempts to “fire and rehire” their staff. A practice employers have been deploying up and down the country and all over the globe. Workers would need to accept drastic cuts to their pay and conditions or be shown the door. These disputes at Heathrow ended much as those elsewhere, with the companies, more or less, getting their own way. Only BA Cargo workers, that went on strike for 9 days over the Christmas period and threatened more in January, managed get most of their demands met. The rest of the workers at BA and HAL have faced serious attacks on their terms and conditions as well as mass redundancies. However, these are just those workplaces under the spotlight. Thousands of workers in large and small, non-unionised companies, on and around the airport, have faced the same and worse. The pandemic has accelerated long-term downward trends in standards of living and working conditions. 

What shall we do about it?! 

We think we have to start locally, to build the confidence, trust and power to push back. Workers themselves need to lead the discussion about the future of their livelihoods and the planet. Are union’s, that even after the pandemic still enthusiastically support a 3rd runway, the best place for these conversations? Heathrow is full of workers on different contracts, in different unions, in different departments, in different companies, but in the exact same workplace. How can we break down these barriers that keep getting in the way when workers try to combine? How do we speak to workers in non-unionised workplaces? Our group could be a focal point for militant workers to get together, seek out and offer support to non-militants, discuss their situation, devise strategies best suited to them, and then act. 

We would like to discuss some modest and achievable objectives to get this ball rolling. 

  • A monthly collectively produced newsletter, with reports and articles discussing workers issues in and around the airport and linking to the wider national and international scene. 
  • A monthly leafleting and postering session, to reach out to workers that need support or want to get involved. 
  • A monthly meeting to discuss the groups business and direction.
  • Visits of support to local disputes, strikes and protests.
  • The maintenance of Facebook and Twitter accounts.

We started this project in late 2020 but Covid restrictions made it difficult to maintain momentum. We have a worker on the airport and a number of local supporters and contacts through solidarity network activity, but we are eager to get a more committed group established in the area. Come and discuss this with us. What do you think of the proposals above? What would you like to do? What would you like a local group to do? 

Look forward to seeing you. 

All the best 

Heathrow Workers Power

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