David Lammy has apologised to British Airways staff for condemning industrial action being taken by the Unite members as he admitted that he had not been “across all the details of the case” and had misunderstood the demands.
In a letter to a constituent, Lammy clarified comments made during an interview with the BBC on Sunday, during which he told viewers he did not support the industrial action because he is “serious about the business of being in government”.
The Shadow Foreign Secretary wrote: “Last Sunday, in a live interview with the BBC, I misheard Sophie Raworth’s question about BA workers. When she said that workers wanted to reverse a previous pay cut of 10%, I mistakenly understood it to mean that they were seeking an above inflation pay rise.
“I was not across the details of the case. It is right that those of us in public life admit when they have made a mistake. With this in mind, I apologise to all BA workers.”
General secretary of Unite Sharon Graham accused the Labour frontbencher of launching a “direct attack” on a group of workers who were “savagely attacked” by their bosses during the coronavirus pandemic following his interview on Sunday.
She highlighted that the workers are not looking for a “pay rise” but are seeking the restoration of wages taken from them during the pandemic, adding: “Supporting bad bosses is a new low for Labour and once again shows that politicians have failed. It is now down to the trade unions to defend working people.”
In the letter to his constituent, leaked to The Mirror, the Shadow Foreign Secretary added that he supported Labour’s call for ‘fire and rehire’ tactics – used against BA workers, and others, during the pandemic – to be banned.
Keir Starmer faced criticism last week after instructing Labour frontbenchers not to join RMT picket lines during the rail strikes. Graham accused the Labour leader of “hiding” and called on him to “decide whose side you are on”.
Starmer had been expected to sack a number of frontbenchers who defied his instruction, but has since backed away from doing so. Chief whip Alan Campbell spoke to five MPs who posted pictures of themselves on picket lines.
“The chief whip has now dealt with those that didn’t follow the advice and that’s a perfectly satisfactory outcome,” the Labour leader said this morning.