Workers’ Climate Action, a campaign network of environmentalists, trade unionists and class struggle activists that fights for a Just Transition, hosted a critical mass cycle ride around Heathrow on Saturday 22nd May.
The event was planned to coincide with the British Airways Cabin Crew strikes, but after a petty legal skirmish earlier in the week, it was not certain whether a Flying Bike Picket would actually being picketing anyone. The strikes were due to start on Tuesday 18th May, but BA won an injunction on Monday against Unite to stop the strikes. This judgment was won on a technicality; that Unite had failed to notify every member of 11 spoilt ballots. This injunction was perfectly timed to delay the beginning of the strike. Finally, the injunction was successfully appealed on Thursday, and Unite could then legally proceed with the strikes. But the strikes did not go ahead, and at time of going to press, BA and Unite were still in negotiations.
The legal debacle was clearly an attempt to break the workers, the Union and the right to strike. With this in mind, WCA decided that it was now, even more important to defend the right to strike and to go out to Heathrow to make sure the cabin crew were made aware of WCA’s support and to encourage solidarity action from the rest of the Heathrow workforce.
So, on Saturday afternoon in the afternoon sun, a critical mass of 25 cyclists set off for Heathrow airport. The mass started from Grow Heathrow, a community garden in Sipson set up by Tranisition Heathrow. A number of Sipson residents joined the mass too to show their solidarity with the cabin crew as well as a celebration of the plans to axe the Third Runway, which would have tarmac-ed their village and destroyed their homes.
The mass was a colourful and musical display of creative solidarity and highlighted the current threat to our collective right to strike. The bike were covered in slogans such as ‘Not the Courts, Not the State, Workers should decide their fate!’, ‘Abolish the Anti-Trade Union Laws’ and ‘Environmentalists want to defend the right to strike!’.
The mass cycled through the beautiful greenery surrounding the airport on the way to its first stop: British Airways HQ, where a local resident, who used to work for BA and lost his three-year-old child to aviation pollution, addressed the workers inside to support the cabin crew and fight their bullying boss Willie Walsh.
Next stop – Terminal 5. There were many BA workers by the entrance on smoking breaks, many of whom seemed pleased to accept this playful display of solidarity. Then the critical mass left the road and entered the terminal building, swerving passed dismayed security staff, cycled passed the check-in desks demanding protection of the right to strike.
The mass then continued on its course, visiting other parts of the airport and the surrounding villages to spread its message of solidarity and dissent, while simultaneously slowing traffic at every turn. The critical mass is currently the most effective and creative way to show your solidarity in a workplace such as Heathrow airport; it allows you to be mobile, avoid security and dissent in a fun and inclusive way.