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The Two Hundred Million Pound Strike

The 2003 British Airways Walkout


Ed Blissett

This book describes and analyses the 2003 British Airways (BA) Customer Service Agents’ (CSA) 24-hour unofficial strike. It examines the lead up to the dispute, in which negotiations failed to reach an agreement over the launch of BA’s Automatic Time Recording and Integrated Airport Resource Management systems, before focusing on the dispute itself and its eventual resolution.

Central to the book is the question: why did a group of union members, the majority of whom were young women, become so incensed at an imposed change to their working practices that they took unofficial strike action? This they did in the knowledge that they could all have been legally dismissed.

In analysing the strike, the book explores why BA’s management imposed such a controversial change to working practices on the company’s busiest weekend of the year. A decision which, allegedly, cost the company two-hundred-million pounds, tarnished its reputation, and saw numerous senior managers lose their jobs.

How and why the CSAs’ three trade unions (the GMB Union, the Transport and General Workers Union and Amicus) reacted in such different ways to the unofficial strike, and then behaved so differently in the subsequent negotiations, is also central to this study.

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List of illustrations


Photograph 1 BA Customer Service Agents (CSAs) start their unofficial strike by walking away from the Terminal 4 check-in desks. Friday 18 July 2003. Photographer, Dennis Stone – Shutterstock.

Photograph 2 BA passengers left stranded in Terminal 1 during the CSAs’ unofficial strike. Saturday 19 July 2003. Photographer, Les Besford – Reuters.

Photograph 3 BA passengers in temporary marque outside Terminal 4. Tuesday 22 July 2003. Photographer, Matthew Fearn – PA Image/Alamy Stock.

Photograph 4 Ed Blissett (left) speaks to journalists outside the GMB Hayes Office. Monday 21 July 2003. Photographer, Johnny Green – PA Image/Alamy Stock.

Photograph 5 Rod Eddington (left) and Kevin Curran (right) speak to the media outside BA’s, Waterside, Head Office. Monday 28 July 2003. Photographer, Matthew Fearn – PA Image/Alamy Stock.

Photograph 6 Patrick O’Keefe (left), Bill Morris (centre foreground) and Matthew Campbell (right) arrive at the TUC. Wednesday 30 July 2003. Photographer, Jim Watson – AFP via Getty Images.

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