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Cabin crew collectivism : labour process and the roots of mobilisation

Taylor, Philip and Moore, Sian (2015) Cabin crew collectivism : labour process and the roots of mobilisation. Work, Employment and Society, 29 (1). pp. 79-98. ISSN 0950-0170

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Abstract

The protracted dispute (2009–11) between British Airways and BASSA (British Airways Stewards and Stewardesses Association) was notable for the strength of collective action by cabin crew. In-depth interviews reveal collectivism rooted in the labour process and highlight the key agency of BASSA in effectively articulating worker interests. This data emphasizes crews’ relative autonomy, sustained by unionate on-board ‘managers’ who have defended the frontier of control against managerial incursions. Periodic attempts to re-configure the labour process, driven by cost cutting imperatives in an increasingly competitive airline industry, eroded crews’ organizational loyalties. When BA imposed radical changes to contracts and working arrangements, BASSA successfully mobilized its membership. The article contributes to labour process analysis by emphasizing the collective dimensions to emotional labour, restoring the ‘missing subject’, but also articulating the interconnections between labour process and mobilization and the role unions can play in providing the organizational and ideological resources to legitimate worker interest.