David Lammy admits he got his facts wrong as he apologises for opposing BA strikes

·3 min read
David Lammy - JEFF OVERS/BBC/AFP via Getty Images)
David Lammy - JEFF OVERS/BBC/AFP via Getty Images)

David Lammy has reversed his position on opposing British Airways strikes after admitting he was “not across the detail”.

On Sunday, the shadow foreign secretary said that he was “categorical” in his opposition to BA check-in staff going on strike, despite them being represented by the Labour-affiliated Unite union.

It provoked a backlash from the Left wing of Labour and unions, with Sharon Graham, the Unite general secretary, calling Mr Lammy’s support for “bad bosses” a “new low” for the party and a “direct attack” on airline workers.

He has written to constituents apologising for his comments and saying that he had “mistakenly understood” that BA staff were seeking above-inflation pay rises. “I was not across the details of the case,” he wrote.

It came after Mr Lammy said that a “serious” party of government does not “posture” on picket lines, but rather supports negotiation.

David Lammy - Jeff Overs/BBC/PA
David Lammy - Jeff Overs/BBC/PA

Holidaymakers face further disruption at airports this summer after BA staff demanded a 10 per cent pay rise they claim was “stolen” from them last year, as they faced what they called “fire and rehire tactics”.

Labour has been pushing for the Government to legislate to stop “fire and rehire”, which involves an employer dismissing workers before hiring them again on different, less favourable terms.

Mr Lammy was “categorical” in saying he did not support the check-in workers’ action during an interview with the BBC’s Sophie Raworth on Sunday.

“Many of us might want a rise of 10 per cent – in truth, most people understand it’s unlikely that you're going to get that,” he said. Asked whether he supported the planned action, he said: “No, I don’t. No, I don’t – it is a no, it’s a categorical no.”

In his letter to constituents, seen by The Mirror, Mr Lammy said he had “misheard” the journalist’s question.

“When she said that workers wanted to reverse a previous pay cut of 10 per cent, I mistakenly understood it to mean that they were seeking an above-inflation pay rise,” he wrote.

“I was not across the details of the case. It is right that those of us in public life admit when we have made a mistake. With this in mind, I apologise to all BA workers.

“During the pandemic, BA workers were threatened with shameful ‘fire and rehire’ tactics and had their pay slashed. That’s why I supported Labour’s call for ‘fire and rehire’ to be banned in 2020, as well as aviation sector support with a clear commitment to protect skilled workers and working conditions in the industry.”

Last week, five Labour frontbenchers defied Sir Keir Starmer’s ultimatum that none of his top team should go to support workers on picket lines. It is understood that Alan Campbell, the chief whip, has spoken to the frontbenchers but they will not be sacked .

Speaking during a visit to the Sanatan Mandir temple in Crawley, West Sussex, Sir Keir said: “I was very clear that a responsible government gets the negotiating parties around the table, that’s why I took the approach I did.

“The chief whip has now dealt with those that didn’t follow the advice and that’s a perfectly satisfactory outcome.”

Mr Lammy was approached for comment.

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