Direct action gets the goods

Who says the wildcat strike is dead? When British Airways check-in staff promptly walked out in July, after management sought to impose a swipe card-based clocking-on system, they proved the power of the unofficial action.

The workers were, of course, right to be sceptical about the bosses' motives. The new “big brother” system would be used to monitor working hours, so bosses could even start sending people home during quiet periods, without pay. This would particularly affect the mainly women workers' ability to manage family commitments around working hours. Already, many are forced to do ‘tarmac transfers', passing children between partners at shift changes. This is only possible if people know their shift patterns 3 months in advance, as at present. Check-in workers only earn £200-240 per week, so paying for child care is not really an option.