May 24th, 2010
07:17 AM GMT
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As the tensions rose during the last-ditch negotiations between British Airways CEO Willie Walsh and the Unite union leadership representing the cabin crew, one of the most bizarre causes of a breakdown in communications was that communications breakthrough, Twitter.

According to media reports, weekend talks to prevent today’s walkout were going well until Walsh realized that Derek Simpson, Unite’s joint general secretary, was sending ‘tweets’ of the progress on Twitter – the public Web site where members post messages 140 characters or less.

So if you want to take a peek at the tweets that the airline claims helped sink negotiations, here they are:

  • About to make another attempt to persuade Willie Walsh to stop trying for regime change and stop being vindictive 6:14 PM May 21st via Twitter
  • Wllie Walsh reckons Tony and I cannot make a settlement ... He is right but he is also the reason why !! 6:14 p.m. May 21st  via Twitter
  • Anybody know how to change your twitter name 7:23 PM May 21st via Twitter
  • Talks still ongoing .... Still hard going and progress hard won 12:40 AM May 22nd via Twitter
  • Willie and Tony (Woodley, Unite’s co-general secretary) locking horns over accusations of unequal treatment of allegations of bullying 12:58 AM May 22nd via Twitter
  • ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) may become independant (sic) observers 1:00 AM May 22nd via Twitter
  • Willie claims he is misquoted on websites 1:01 AM May 22nd via Twitter
  • Arguments over the 8 sacked workers. 1:02 AM May 22nd via Twitter
  • Fear of more sackings to come 1:03 AM May 22nd via Twitter for BlackBerry®
  • When employees on both sides of the dispute hide their faces when interviewing ... Then something is badly wrong down at BA 1:05 AM May 22nd via Twitter
  • Intruders from left political group has infiltrated ACAS building and disrupted talks ..... Police called ... Much noise and stamping 1:28 AM May 22nd via Twitter (Talks ended when protesters stormed the building).

So, a question – was the company right to be upset over public updates of the negotiations? Was the union right to keep people updated?

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Jiffers

    Incredibly unprofessional behaviour on the part of Simpson. What a bum.

    May 24, 2010 at 8:38 am |
  2. Louise

    I think BA cabin crew need to wake up to the century we live in – they will bankrupt BA and then have to settle for either no job or at an airline paying half as much. Just because Simpson knows how to tweet doesn't make him less like an Arthur Scargill caricature from decades past. Cabin crew – you will bankrupt BA – learn basic maths and read last week's accounts!

    May 24, 2010 at 8:39 am |
  3. dr André Kruger

    Talk about killing the goose that lay the golden eggs.. that's exactly what this stupid union is doing with BA!

    If they are "succesful" and eventually bury BA.. what will happen to the cabin crew then? Unlikely any other airliner will take the risk of hiring such disloyal people.

    Of course the union bosses ar NOT those who suffer.. they are only those who inflict ths suffering.

    May 24, 2010 at 9:13 am |
  4. John Malia

    How stupid can you be to make 'public' confidential talks until an agreement or accord is reached? By all means inform your members, as that is normally often the cause for complaint about lack of communication. (But not the general public at this point) BA, Unite should be renamed 'Ushite'
    Unite, you should be less amateurish.
    From a senior Ex A.U.E.W. 'Works Convener'.
    John Malia

    May 24, 2010 at 9:33 am |
  5. Graham

    Not an appropriate use of technology in the middle of sensitive negotiations. Very unproductive and indicates poor judgement by the party involved. Then again, Twitter is "it's all about me" isn't it?

    May 24, 2010 at 10:03 am |
  6. Jeff

    Pretty much exposes the lack on integrity that BA is trying to deal with. Send them all packing and welcome others who are happy to perform the work they perform for the pay and benefits they now receive. Where can I sign up?

    May 24, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  7. spades

    Protesters and strikers got some great timing to do this amidst an international crisis. Have fun being unemployed, you'll be able to strike and protest on welfare.

    May 24, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
  8. Hugh

    BA's cabin crew is, in my mind, generally very professional. Their business class is among the best in the business. So I simply DO NOT understand why they let these idiots at Unite represent them. What kind of trust does Simpson and Unite hope to build by doing such a stupid twitter thing. Cabin crew: Get smart, Dump the Unite twits. THEY are not the ones who are losing money when you are on strike, YOU are.

    May 24, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
  9. KrisC

    I really don't see the problem with the tweeting...while it may be unprofessional here in America to tweet/ answer emails in a meeting, CLEARLY the CEO didn't see a problem with it until some crazy people stormed the building...the CEO said so himself, he thought he was responding to an email..and if you read the tweets in no way does he say or imply that people should disrupt the mtg...they were just a play by play of general topics they were discussing.

    The unions demands may be insane but the tweets...other then being unprofessional, there's nothing wrong with them...I mean think of it this way: Let's say that the meeting ended with no resolution, then the union prez went home and tweeted the same thing...would we care? or do we just care because some crazy people interrupted a meeting?? Freedom of Speech...I'm pretty sure they still have that over the pond!

    May 24, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
  10. esquire

    The BA cabin crew seem like Jekyll and Hide, one moment they are serving flying customers with smiles and a seemingly courteous service and the next thing they are protesting in support of privileges and pay packages which just don't cut in the real world of economics. Next time I'm on a BA flight if that ever happens mind you..when they warmly wave you goodbye at the exit of the plane, some impolite gestures may coming flying their way...

    May 24, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  11. James Franklin

    Everyone wants more money all the time but you have to be reasonable, learn to read the accounts they are publicly available, this whole Unite fiasco is disgustingly greedy, if they win then BA will go bankrupt and all those ppl protesting and striking will have no jobs anyway.

    May 24, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
  12. JamesG

    Even as a suporter of the strike I cannot believe our Union can have been so unprofessional. We are a very professional crew in a very difficult time and environment and I think we have the right to think that our Union leaders could show some integrity

    May 24, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  13. HUgh Allen

    BAs problems arose because about 15 years ago they went after the business passenger and downgraded benefits – and treatment – for economy class passengers. They also got involved in silliness like paying a million pounds per aircraft when they painted the tails in silly patterns – while laying off 4,000 staff. The problem with their business plan was that over the next 15 years it became plain that it was the 'bums on seats' passengers that kept planes in the air, as the low-cost competition has showed. They bet on the wrong horseb and now they want to blame the cabin staff. Molst of these people aren't striking because they are Trotskyites, but because they know, rightly, I think, that Walsh wants to rule the roost by fiat and brook no disagreement. He is a bully and a Thatcher-come-lately who is out for a fight.

    May 24, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  14. Robert

    Using your phone to text, call, email or whatever during a meeting is disrespectful. That said it is accepted that people respond to a text message or an email during a meeting when it is important.

    However divulging details to the public while you are in sensitive negotiations that will have huge implications on the party you are representing is not professional and would not be acceptable at any side of "the pond".

    Mr Woodley saying Mr Walsh is using this incident as a distraction is a sign of weakness. Unite should have apologised and shown they take responsibility for this error in judgement which would have made them look stronger. The "offer" made via the media by Mr Woodley also seems to have been something that was previously discussed and not part of the current issue of disciplinary action.

    It seems the reorg plans are agreed, it seems disciplinary action is taken in line with union agreed processes and even ACAS has offered to mediate. Travel perks were supposed to have been agreed as well. What are BA staff using this 20 day strike for? It seems very trivial at this point.

    I can not see how BA professionals can let them be represented by these obvious amateurs.

    May 24, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
  15. Paulo J Lourenco

    Tweeter and the right and duty to inform people have nothing to do with the matter. The contents of the tweets have.

    When you are part in a negotiation you should not go public with everything that is going on, specially personal opinions and remarks about other parts involved, that have nothing to do with the matters at stake.

    May 24, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
  16. Yankee Doug

    Last comment from KrisC – "other then being unprofessional, there's nothing wrong with them"

    The whole point is these tweets are counterproductive becuase they are unprofessional! He calls WW "vindictive" making the talks even more advesarial by attacking a person instead of the argument.

    Free speech doesn't enter into negotiations between the negotiators. Free speech is for people commenting from outside on the negotiations.

    May 24, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  17. Kabir Kakkar

    Go on folks...don't give up till BA goes bust. At least thats what Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic and Emirates must be hoping.

    May 24, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
  18. Jimmy the Big Fat Greek

    Willie et al may be upset but this is the reality of the 21st century. Social site updates from everything and anything (formal comments to brain farts) are the new reality. Companies may want to revise their confidentiality clauses to include said social sites to muzzle it down. I think the texting and tweeting can help with negotiations because members can read what's going on without all the deafening screams. That being said, Willie could have also tweeted with his stakeholders. Meh.

    May 24, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
  19. Tanveer

    Its no different than " leaking " confidential discussions in real time. Thoroughly unprofessional to tweet, knowing how polarized the matter has become. In all this mess, has anyone given a thought to the British Airways clients?

    May 24, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
  20. John E. Bredehoft

    Twitter isn't the culprit – the behavior is. Simpson could have just as easily spilled the beans via fax, or cell phone, or with a quill pen and parchment.

    Of course, whether or not to share this information depends upon what your ultimate goal is. If your ultimate goal is to reach an agreement, then you probably don't want to do anything that would anger the other side – or your own side.

    May 24, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
  21. Mikel

    Understand the power of the social media app like twitter

    May 24, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
  22. Niyi

    At the end of the story BA will be declared bankrupt and go into oblivion, then the crew members will then proceed on strike perpetualis. Unite should read the financilas of BA.

    May 27, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
  23. Frank

    Some months ago I booked a trip from Los Angeles to Paris on BA for July. I thought it would be nice to try this airline for once (I fly to France several times a year). But now, between BP and BA I'm beginning not to like anything British anymore. The prospect of a group who should be grateful for a job in these trying times possibly spoiling my trip (already paid for by the way) is incredibly annoying. To be honest, regardless of how the strike turns out I will never use BA for travel again. I know my business is not but a blip on the union's radar... but if enough people start feeling like me, these people will end up with no jobs. Maybe the people in Louisiana who are facing complete ruin because of another British company would love to retrain as flight attendants so they can have a job.

    June 1, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
  24. Elei

    First of all, why do you have to tweet about sensitive issues anyway? That is plain dumb.

    Negotiations are there so that matters can be solved internally.. turning down the heat...Tweeting information makes negotiating useless.

    Simpson should have known better.

    June 3, 2010 at 9:18 am |

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