Unite, the union formed from a merger of Amicus and the Transport and General Workers Union, is at the centre of a political storm. The BBC report that the Prime Minister has described the strike as "unjustified and deplorable" and the Transport Minister, Lord Adonis, has said "passengers should not be held to ransom" by the union.
The strike is completely unreasonable. The staff are well paid compared to cabin crew at other airlines, see the graphic below from an earlier BBC report:
As for the number of cabin crew per flight falling from 15 to 14, in the same report the BBC points out that "staff at Gatwick have been operating with the reduced crew numbers for years, with Unite's agreement."
The strike will do the airline enormous commercial damage. Having been one of the passengers who nearly missed out on a flight over Christmas, I know that getting caught in one of these strikes makes a customer feel completely let down. And much more cautious about booking with the airline again.
This is yet more evidence that unreasonable unions are undermining the economy. As we showed in a new research note last week, they are also striking fifteen times as much in the public sector as in the private sector. They are trying to extract even more generous treatment at taxpayers' expense despite private sector workers having borne the brunt of the recession.
Despite all that, the unions receive significant taxpayer funding. To give two examples. Research by the International Policy Network found that the Trades Union Congress (TUC) is receiving significant support from the Department for International Development, £3.6 million between 2003 and 2011. The Union Modernisation Fund has provided millions of pounds in support to the trade unions at taxpayers' expense. The amounts given to each union have been given in this answer to a Parliamentary Question. Just looking at the Unite union, they appear to have received £382,500 from the Fund including two projects in this financial year so far:
It is utterly unfair for taxpayers to be expected to support the unions as they attempt to stymie necessary cuts in public spending and undermine the British economy.