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BA Strike - Your Thoughts & Questions IV

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BA Strike - Your Thoughts & Questions IV

Old 23rd Feb 2011, 14:01
  #561 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2008
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Shouldn’t BASSA be ultimately governed by the Unite Rule Book?

Is that available publicly?
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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 14:05
  #562 (permalink)  
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There are actually a few legal issues which could scupper this ballot:

1a. Are the records used for the ballot accurate to a reasonable level?

I believe the Electoral Reform Service (who administered the ballot on behalf of Unite) had concerns on this front from the start, evidenced by the fact that in the most recent ballot, ERS never actually released a statement on their notepaper setting out the results of the ballot; if you notice, the thrid ballot announcement was on ERS notepaper, the latest (fourth) ballot result was published on Unite notepaper:


The latest confirmation was communicated by Unite directly to its membership:


It will be telling on what notepaper the ballot result is publicised this time round (which I think shall be known as the “fourth” ballot).

Last time round there was anecdotal evidence that non-members were balloted, and that multiple ballots were sent to a number of people, certainly including those who were no longer union members and possibly permitting duplicate votes by those who were current members. This would have skewed the results materially.

Though BA passed on the evidence for these breaches to ERS (classed as a “legal blitz” by Unite) it was ERS which refused to support the ballot, not BA’s legal activities, as BA never took this issue to court. There was no recourse to the courts/legal challenge as has been implied in several Unite Press Releases.

It has been alleged that the BASSA rep responsible for the recordkeeping (and, apparently, paid to do so through membership subscriptions) had “outsourced” that function to another person. It is enough for BASSA to demonstrate they have a robust methodology for keeping accurate records, there is no compulsion for 100% accuracy.

“Reasonableness” is the only benchmark they have to satisfy. Far from the law being pitched against successful ballots, many other unions have held successful ballots in recent times (RMT for Tube Drivers, I think the Post Office had a strike recently, though no-one noticed) and BASSA was not able to manage this very fundamental task. This is a shocking indictment of their abilities to administrate their own records (which is a legal requirement under Chapter 3 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1992), and would justify a motion of censure from the Certification Officer, should a BASSA member choose to take this up with that CO.

It appears from posts here that Unite itself has now taken over the administration of BASSA records, with letters having been sent to confirm BASSA membership which arrived between 18th-22nd February. That exercise would probably be enough to demonstrate a robust process, but as to the actual outcome especially with BA’s peripatetic employee lifestyle, it will still be a challenge to properly ensure accuracy, especially if members are away on longer trips over the next few days. I personally do not believe the objectives of this mailshot will be realisable to the extent required prior to the commencement of the ballot on March 1st.

This is further complicated by Holley’s statement on 23 January telling the 6,500 Union members who did not vote for Industrial Action to leave Unite/BASSA/Amicus, which will no doubt have created a moving target for BASSA’s own membership records:


Now BA's plans are in the open I would like to send this message to everyone who has either left BASSA, voted NO, or to a lesser extent not voted. You have been given your say and the majority has spoken. If you have any integrity you should accept Bill Francis's offer straight away because your actions and votes are a tacit acceptance of what BA propose.

Don't sit back and see if your brave colleagues who voted YES can fight your fight for you. That is cowardice, you have made your bed and now you must lie in it, alongside Bill. Good Luck, it has been nice knowing you.


So while I believe Unite should be in a position to demonstrate it has “taken in hand” BASSA’s recordkeeping, I do not believe there is reason to believe those records will be in any better state by 1 March than they were last time round, principally due to the moving target created by DH himself.

1.b. Failure to Administrate the Branch Properly

The keeping of accurate membership records is a legal responsibility of the Branch and Union, similar to the requirement to keep audited accounts and grant access to members to such records:

Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992

BASSAwitch has recently had a formal request for visibility of the accounts denied (see the previous page of the forum for BASSA’s response). I think the deadline is 15 March 2011; I hope BASSAwitch has by now copied the derisory response to BASSA’s auditors (does anyone know who they are? It’s possibly Northover Bennett & Co in Eastleigh Hants, as they set up the “BASSA Ltd” entity in January this year as the holding company for BASSA subscriptions?), Unite’s auditors, The Certification Officer and the TUC so that any censure will happen at the earliest opportunity once the 28 day deadline has passed; let’s hope BASSA are in a position to release its historical accounts to its own membership and demonstrates both its administrative effectiveness and its transparency.

While this is not a reason to stop action, any concern about the effectiveness of the branch administration ( accounting, membership AND related to the election of officials, which hasn’t really been challenged to date) could adversely affect a range of serious issues which would harm BASSA’s credibility.

2. That the Reason for Industrial action was “unclear”

Simple really, BASSA needs to give one, clear reason to ballot; any more than that is a problem as it opens up multiple areas for potential challenge.

In the most recent ballot, DH set out four reasons, with an extra fifth tagged on by Unite. The fifth reason (introduction of Mixed Fleet) was an attempt to make this ballot unconnected to previous ballots. But it wasn’t unconnected, and did not succeed in that endeavour. I think as that ballot was declared invalid (not *illegal*, as Unite would have you believe!) they could possibly used the Mixed Fleet (MF) argument again, and this would be their strongest suit – even that could easily be defeated. HOWEVER, BA has already won the right to introduce changes in its workforce, here is the court report setting that out:

Malone & Ors v British Airways Plc [2010] EWHC 302 (QB) (19 February 2010)

and it is similarly clear that BA did indeed consult BASSA on MF several years ago, and it was offered a solution which avoided MF but declined, so it should be quite easy to gain an injunction if that is the reason on which they ballot.

3. That the Reason for the Ballot Continues Previous Action

It is my understanding that Unions are permitted 12 weeks within which to conclude their dispute; they must demonstrate they have made proactive effort to negotiate. If they fail to reach a negotiated settlement, the dispute is effectively over and the Union has failed in its attempt to change the employer’s stance.

No further withdrawal of labour may occur for reasons connected with the initial dispute, and while a strike is possible it remains outside the “protection” of the Trade and Industrial Relations Act 1992, which means BASSA members are exposed to having their employment terminated with minimal compensation if they choose to withdraw their labour. You can read more about this here:


It's important to emphasise that the criterion for unprotected action IS NOT that the reason for the strike is "the same as previous ballots". The evidential tests for unprotected action are set out below:

Dismissal and unprotected industrial action. Official industrial action organised by a trade union is 'unprotected' if:

1. the trade union has failed to hold a postal ballot in-line with the law

2. the trade union has not told the employer, in-line with the law, about the industrial action ahead of a ballot or ahead of the industrial action

3. it has been disowned by the trade union (eg because someone without authority called for the action, or because the trade union considers the dispute to be resolved), sometimes called 'repudiated action'

4. it is secondary industrial action (in support of workers of another employer), sometimes called 'sympathy action'

5. it promotes ‘union labour only’ practices (also known as a ‘closed shop’)

6. it is in support of any workers who have been dismissed for taking unofficial action

7. other aspects of industrial action law have been breached by the trade union

If you are dismissed while taking part in unprotected industrial action called for by your trade union, you cannot normally claim unfair dismissal if all the other employees taking part are dismissed as well.
BASSA has never set out to its membership the risks of unprotected action; it has a moral obligation, especially if it believes it is covered, to set out these risks to its membership.

As an aside, BA has already sent a detailed repudiation on the issues around both Disciplinaries and Sick Pay while Striking to Unite in December 2011:




So it’s unlikely Unite could use those reasons for industrial action with any certainty of success.

4. Incitement to Secondary Action

There is possibly something in LM’s recent plea for other Unite members to join in the action:

LM: I want to be very clear in my statement to all members of our union. I expect all members to support our cabin crew members taking industrial action.

Just for one minute put yourselves in the position of those involved in the dispute. They have been villified [sic], harassed and victimised, all for standing up to maintain terms of employment and agreements. It's a disgrace and I expect all our members to recognise and respect this.
This is unclear to me, and I am not certain it represents “incitement to secondary action”. The plea begged other Unite members to join the action; I would assume this would be at LHR, but it is not clear to me that you can strike if you haven’t actually taken part in a ballot, unless it is their intention to ballot all Unite members within British Airways, and not just BASSA/Amicus Cabin Crew; given the strength of the VCC response, I wouldn’t imagine they’d get much traction. The issues of unprotected action would still remain for any others who chose to withdraw their labour.

5. Previous Industrial Action was illegal and that Unite may therefore be compelled to compensate BA for losses

I understand there is a court case scheduled for 15 March in which the further appeal will be heard as to whether the injunction against BA’s attempt to stop the first strike was legal; if it is found in BA’s favour then Unite would be in significant financial difficulty, with a “profit” of under £500k last year and assets of around £80m and a potential claim in the £100s of millions. The only evidence I have for such an action is somewhat tentative:

www.rpc.co.uk/index.php?task=download&option=com_flexicontent&cid=6917&id= 948&fid=22&Itemid=92

"• In what appears to be an increasingly bitter battle, the British
Airways plc v Unite dispute will go to trial at the High Court
in March [2011]. BA is claiming damages in respect of the strikes in
March last year. It is the most high-profile example of a trend of
employers using the courts to stop industrial action. We may see
further examples with industrial unrest expected in 2011."

Last edited by VintageKrug; 24th Feb 2011 at 09:33.
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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 14:20
  #563 (permalink)  
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DH has already clearly stated that he has no intention of actually calling a strike, rather using ballots to serially frustrate the airline, and that they are actually rather hoping BA challenges every aspect in the courts as this will allow them to portray themselves as victims of big, bad capitalists.

Holley: “This is a different phase of the dispute that we are now in, it’s no longer about rushing into strike dates; it is all about sending a message..….You no longer need actual strikes to pressure the company - ballots can have the same effect, since they carry the threat of strikes. It would now appear that a simple, well-placed cross on the ballot paper removes some of the need to actually lose money and stand on picket lines.”
It should also be remembered that BA has not:

1. Made any of its cabin crew compulsorily redundant throughout this dispute

2. Resorted to change of contract, which can be imposed with three months’ notice;

3. Invoked dismissal for Some Other Significant Reason (SOSR)

All of which are options BA could pursue at this stage, with most serious repercussions for vary many hard working, if poorly informed, cabin crew.

BASSA has continually misrepresented to its workforce that BA is potentially offering the Mixed Fleet contract to existing crew; this is absolutely not the case: this is the offer which has in the past been made available to those cabin crew not in the union, including a 2.9% pay rise this year, 3% in 2012 and assurances that current T&Cs will remain:


BASSA has a history of causing a fuss over silly issues, such as the infamous Hot TowelGate:

LGW/LHR - 29/01/09 Hot Towels in WT+

I had a good deal of sympathy for Cabin Crew when this negotiation first kicked off; it’s important in cyclical lower paid industries such as aviation that employees have effective representation; that representation should be pragmatic and business-minded. After all the Union Branch cannot exist without the employer, while the reverse is not true.

And most large firms need a single entity with which it can negotiate; I am not certain if that single entity may no longer be relevant now we have significantly better communication methods and it may well be that BA could be a model for a new way of conducting industrial relations, after all many large multinational firms exist without a significantly unionised workforce, with the workforce incentivised to excel and go the extra mile to do their part to deliver profits with financial incentives if those targets are achieved, rather than the rather negative “lowest common denominator” approach espoused by some Unions of the 1970s persuasion.

There cannot be any truth in the allegation of “union-busting” as BA continues to have positive engagement with its other Unions, even including Unite, most recently having come to agreement on the Pensions Deficit, averted a Ground Crew strike, not to mention the Settlement Unite agreed with Willie Walsh on this very dispute, then reneged on, last year.

My regular experience as a passenger is that most BA crew are superb; they go the extra miles (one anecdote: I left my watch in the lounge after boarding the aircraft, and he scooted off to retrieve it for me as I was not permitted to re-enter the terminal myself) and for the generally good humour and peculiarly British mix of informality and professionalism which is not matched by many other international airlines out there.

Having said that, it is clear to me that the enormous amount of stress BASSA has inflicted on its membership and non-members with the vitriol and personalised way it has run this dispute is affecting morale, and I have noticed a significant upturn in the number of grumpy crew in my longhaul flights over the past few months (less so on shorthaul, for some reason).

However, I am equally certain that the ability to exhibit those traits is not directly correlated to the amount of money paid, nor to the length of service, nor membership or non-membership of a Union.

On that qualified basis, I now have very little sympathy for cabin crew who remain within BASSA (they can still leave BASSA and re-join TU membership with Unite directly if they prefer); BASSA is plainly a dysfunctional organisation, led largely by people who no longer work for BA, selfishly motivated to protect only their own interests and not that of the wider membership, intent on anarchic anti-capitalist style revenge on British Airways.

Having failed in its industrial action it is now hoping to tie up BA in the courts for decades as it’s only remaining weapon, yet legal engagement is a double edge sword, and as history has proven, BA has a repeatedly runs rings around the Unite legal team, and with BA’s HR dept. now part of the Legal Dept. there should be little opportunity for BASSA to attack.

Symptomatic of its bankrupt arguments, BASSA has a history of deploying frankly abhorrent Nazi imagery to ram its perverse message home:


And again a BASSA propaganda sheet littered with references paralleling this "struggle" to the Holocaust:


They also have a penchant for using children to make their point, which is deeply unpleasant, reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s “Human Shield”:


BASSA is impotent to affect BA’s operations, and those heading off for weddings, honeymoon and funerals as well as businesspeople know that BA will better its previous capacity to deliver a normal operation during a “strike” if indeed there is a next time, by operating all but a handful of exLHR shorthaul flights.

Whatever your thoughts on Unions are, they are democratic organisations. It is time the majority of BASSA membership asserted their voice, demanded access to accounts, demanded access to membership records, demanded an explanation of the reasons why no elections for BASSA officials have taken place for some considerable time, and were made aware of how they can extricate themselves, and the company that pays their wages (and their ex-colleagues’ pensions) from this mess into which their Union Branch has led them. BA is not going to relent, and continued dispute is harming cabin crew both professionally and personally, as well as damaging the reputation of Unionism in general.

Enough is enough.


I should make it entirely clear that I (and anyone connected with me) do not, nor ever have had, any professional connection with any aspect of the travel industry, or (for the avoidance of any doubt any entity similar to the Burke Group) and what I set out here is my personal understanding from a close reading of the available public sources, and occasional discussions with BA employees in my capacity as a regular passenger.

I am more than more than happy to have any of the statements I have made critically challenged; please do challenge my posts, but don’t criticise me personally, as it does nothing to add to the debate!

Last edited by VintageKrug; 27th Feb 2011 at 08:35.
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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 14:32
  #564 (permalink)  
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...and if anyone can identify the single (deliberate!) misuse of the word "it's" in there, I'd be pleased to hear of it.....over to you BettyGirl (and thanks for going the extra mile to make me happy )
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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 16:02
  #565 (permalink)  
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VintageKrug, I have read that once, and will do so several times more.

Thank you sincerely for the effort you have put in to providing that [long] summary.

One small favour ... would you edit out all those font instructions? It's a bit confusing!
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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 16:37
  #566 (permalink)  
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Small point re number 4. Wasn't it Len M rather than Liz M that made that call to arms?

I could be wrong though!

Last edited by davidexba; 23rd Feb 2011 at 16:38. Reason: Insert id
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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 17:01
  #567 (permalink)  
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VintageKrug has turned up trumps

Thank you so much VintageKrug._ A very thorough and worthwhile analysis.
It may seem trivial to focus on one part of your analysis which is
. . . cabin crew who remain within BASSA (they can still leave BASSA and retain TU membership with Unite directly if they prefer)
these words are about halfway through__link

This possibility has intrigued and confused me for some time._ Can I ask a member of cabin crew to respond?
Have you actually done this - left BASSA but stayed within Unite?_ I am happy to widen this to "Has your spouse left BASSA but stayed with Unite?"._ But no friends please - because we are then into the unreliability of here-say.
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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 17:18
  #568 (permalink)  
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. . because if ex-BASSA members are within Unite, then why is the no vote so low?
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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 17:37
  #569 (permalink)  
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I can't see it!

Don't know if you can join without joining Bassa or Amicus.

The Unite website does let you but they may well allocate you into one of those branches, if you did join.

Without trying I could not tell you and I would expect all of us that left, would not have wanted to rejoin Unite, not just yet anyway. Most of us have signed the individual offer and that is only possible if you are not a member of Unite.

Not much help I am afraid.
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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 18:17
  #570 (permalink)  
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Possibly the best summary of the whole situation that I have seen, written extremely well and very readable - it was almost like a good book.

I think I found your deliberate mistake.....do I win anything ??
""Having failed in its industrial action it is now hoping to tie up BA in the courts for decades as it’s only remaining weapon,""

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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 18:19
  #571 (permalink)  
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Interesting post VintageKrug. The next ballot will be interesting. However, I don't think anyone is any doubt that there will be a sizeable Yes vote.

On past form, another legal challenge is inevitable. I just wonder when the "tipping point" will be when the membership give up on BASSA and its credibility amongst even the strongest hardliners is lost, or will a substantial minority of members still "keep the faith".
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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 18:29
  #572 (permalink)  
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Another question for Cabin Crew

It seems to me that it is possible for 41% of cabin crew to belong to PCCC while at the same time 76% of cabin crew to belong to BASSA._ This is because cabin crew can belong to both PCCC and BASSA.

However because PCCC have passed the 40% threshold, PCCC could then apply to British Airways for "recognition"._ As I understand it, British Airways has no option - it must recognise PCCC.
(This is the question) Then what happens? - I don’t know.

Maybe it is automatic for Unite to welcome PCCC into the fold._ Then Betty girl and others would have the option to rejoin Unite by means of the PCCC intermediary.

Last edited by notlangley; 23rd Feb 2011 at 18:58. Reason: grammar
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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 19:22
  #573 (permalink)  
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I think that the PCCC will have to be recognised as an independent trade union first.

Funnily enough, I was looking into this today for a course I am on. I think this might be relevant to the discussions -


While it is exceptional to find evidence of a direct subsidy from employer sources, a union with weak finances and inadequate reserves is obviously more likely to be vulnerable to employer interference than one whose financial position is strong.

Particular attention is therefore paid to such questions as the main sources of the unions income, whether this matches its expenditure, the level of its subscription rate and the state of its reserves.

This is taken from the Certification Officers website.
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Old 23rd Feb 2011, 22:05
  #574 (permalink)  
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Particular attention is therefore paid to such questions as the main sources of the unions income, whether this matches its expenditure, the level of its subscription rate and the state of its reserves.

I know its slightly away from your original direction, but I can't help wondering how this criteria will stack up with the Bassa situation at the end of the month, if figures/accounts are found to be wanting. Who/what official organisation could/would be responsible for investigating, and how fast could/would they react - outside of Unite, as they could be held to be too close to the problem to be impartial.

NotLangley - Why on earth would PCCC want to join Unite with Len Mcluck in charge with his declared STAND PROUD backing for BASSA, and can you imagine Len Mcluck's response to PCCC. In any event it would wreck any attempt by PCCC and BA to possibly usher in a new stance in union/employer relationships, to find ways of working for the benefit of both parties - 21st Century style - not 1970's style.

Last edited by Entaxei; 23rd Feb 2011 at 22:18.
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Old 24th Feb 2011, 06:07
  #575 (permalink)  
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Response to Entaxei

The answer is pragmatism
In a letter sent to all the union's members at BA, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey writes.

"Throughout we have been guided by our representatives."
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Old 24th Feb 2011, 07:53
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Len McCluskey says
We believe that the total number of your employees who will be entitled to vote in the ballot (both check-off and non check-off) is therefore 9824

Last edited by notlangley; 24th Feb 2011 at 08:08. Reason: Sorry this was also from Brendan Gold
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Old 24th Feb 2011, 07:57
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Brendan Gold writes
The items of dispute are as follow.

1. The immediate restoration of staff travel concessions, in full, to the crew from whom they were taken.
2. Binding arbitration, through ACAS, of all cabin crew disciplinary cases related to the original dispute.
3. The restoration of all earnings docked from crew who were genuinely off sick during strike dates.
4. Full and proper discussion of the trade union facilities agreement at the company with the immediate removal of all threats and sanctions made by the company in relation to this.
5. The immediate cessation of actions taken against elected representatives of cabin crew, including; victimisation, intimidation and exclusion.
6. The introduction of mixed fleet on different terms and conditions without agreement with the union.
7. The discrimination applied to union members in the allocation of part time contracts and transfers in breach of the Op’s and Choice framework.
8. The company’s continued and specific disregard for necessary union agreement in advance of any application of the disruption agreement.
9. The continued use of volunteer and/or temporary crew from outside the recognised NSP on both the Eurofleet and worldwide fleets and their employment on terms and arrangements outside of existing agreements between BA and the union.
10. The company’s offer of a separate pay settlement and variations to terms and conditions for those willing to accept non-negotiated changes to their contracts

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Old 24th Feb 2011, 08:10
  #578 (permalink)  
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I think BASSAwitch requested the accounts info on 15 February; the accounts must therefore be produced by 15 March 2011, right in the middle of the ballot.

I hope BASSAwitch has already alerted The Certification Officer to BASSA's shocking refusal to produce such accounts, which goes against the Trade and Labour Relations Act:

BASSA wrote:


Your request for the audited accounts of the BASSA branch of Unite have been forwarded to me by XXXXX XXXXX.
We have been told by the branch secretary that the accounts you are seeking are not available at this time. If at any time in the future they do become available for members and ex members to view, we will endeavour to make that known to you. As is common practice we will always insist that you view such accounts unaccompanied on Unite premises and in the strictest confidence......

In solidarity,

The Latest Issues from Bassa -

as set out above
Many of those reasons are connected to previous ballots (some are, indeed, exactly the same) so this action is certain to be "unprotected" and further could be illegal given that BA has already won a case for its right to impose a the "one less crewmember" the parallels with the imposition of Mixed Fleet after BASSA refused to negotiate on the issue are very similar indeed.

Intention to Ballot -

Looks like Unite have at last attempted to get to grips with the BASSA recordkeeping.

Quite shocking that in the previous ballot 10,220 were balloted, having obviously gone to some effort to get the membership records under control, the number which will now be balloted is just 9,824.

That means 396 fewer or around 4% of the total, and certainly a material number.

It is likely that this is already out of date as many will have resigned from BASSA having being told to do so by Duncan Holley himself in his blog of 23 January 2011:


As Unite has used data sourced from BA on 27 January, it is likely these records will not reflect any who resigned from BASSA following that outburst.

And, as a little bonus, proof, if proof were needed, that BASSA is stuck in the 1970s, a screenshot posted on another site of the BASSA forum after they wiped it clean to stop dissenting posts:


I would agree with JT's post below that the latest membership record methodology does seem to be "reasonable", which should satisfy the ERS.

Last edited by VintageKrug; 24th Feb 2011 at 09:27.
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Old 24th Feb 2011, 09:16
  #579 (permalink)  
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I think that the law requires that all reasonable measures to establish membership numbers are made. I think that this latest does meet this requirement. The DH rant is a red herring in the sense that there will always be changes to the union membership numbers form month to month. There has to be a snapshot date on which union membership numbers are taken to be correct for the purposes of a ballot. UNITE seem to have done this, the DH variation can be discounted as post the snapshot date, which is only a month old. This meets the reasonableness test.
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Old 24th Feb 2011, 09:28
  #580 (permalink)  
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The penny hasn't dropped yet has it?

Just in the same way many of the previous grievances wouldn't have arisen had negotiated and there hadn't been a strike, the additional new grievances wouldn't have arisen had BASSA reached an agreement with the company.

The original call to strike was to "send a message" to BA. And BA has duly sent one back to BASSA that it will carry on without you.

In other news: Brent crude hit $119 a barrel this morning.

If the oil price carries on increasing, there may be more "impositions" for BASSA to wail about.
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