Essays on Understanding Workplace Change - the Cabin Crew Dispute Case Study

Download full paperFile format: .doc, available for editing

The paper 'Understanding Workplace Change - the Cabin Crew Dispute" is a good example of a management case study. Pluralism frame of reference in terms of industrial relations is seen as the preferred perspective for running employee relations in organizations. However other perspectives – Marxism, neo-liberalism and feminism – offer alternatives in regards to industrial relations. Heery et al (2008, pp. 14-21) discuss challenges or alternatives to pluralism orientation in industrial relations. This paper gives an analysis of Heery’ s et al (2008) discussion using an actual example. It will show the challenges faced in changing its industrial relations reference from that of pluralism to Marxism and the implications it has on the organization.

The workplace change example I will look into is Upchurch’ s (2010) evaluation of British Airways (BA) industrial relations-following and after the 2010 Cabin crew dispute. Upchurch did this analysis following a request by Unite (the collective bargaining body at BA) to look at the employee relations strategy and its implication on the dispute with the cabin crew. It is important to look at the trend of employee relations following the Cabin Crew dispute- the main area of attention History of BA Employee Relations Upchurch (2010) reveals that employee relations at BA are mixed as both sustainable and non-stainable-terminism.

From its initiation, the organization developed a culture that was both militaristic and bureaucratic. This culture became detrimental to the organization which led to many of the pilots joining the army. With increasing competition in the market, BA opted for cost-cutting strategy and according to Upchurch (2010) the culture became Marxist and the rule was dominated by fear, low trust between managers and staff and the staff became demotivated.

With privatization in 1987 and increasing competition, the management opted to change the strategy to that of staff development and enhancement of customer quality. This seemed to have taken the long-term direction as opposed to the short-term strategies the organization seemed to have been operating on. As Upchurch says, they adopted programs like a day in the life and putting people first which reveal that the management was willing to recognize the input of the employees to the profitability and sustainability of the organization.

This collaborative approach popularized BA as a model of sustainable work practices. Within this period customer satisfaction was realized and the brand appeared to have gotten a reputation as the ‘ World’ s favorite Airline’ (Upchurch 2010). However, this reign of profitability and sustainability would not last long since most of its competitors copied their working strategy. At the same time there emerged low-cost carriers within Europe which challenged the kind of business model BA operated in. Thus, BA was faced with the challenge of choosing a strategy of high quality and low-cost model.

Without government subsidies, this left BA with the option of cost-cutting. The organization was faced with the challenge of balancing between high-quality strategy, cost-cutting approach and a customer-focused approach. This slipped the organization to low employee motivation and constant disputes. Upchurch (2010) observes that in the 1990s, each bargaining power at BA had a dispute every year. The open management style changed and instead of consultation and negotiation, the management turned to threats and selling off or franchising operations.


Geare, A, Edgar, F and McAndrew, I, 2009, ‘Workplace values and belief: and empirical study of ideology, high commitment management and unionism, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 20, 5, pp. 1147-1171.

Jodar, P, Vidal, S and Alos, R, 2011, ‘Union Activism in an inclusive system of industrial relations: Evidence from a Spanish case study, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford.

Ross P and Bamber G J, 2009, ‘strategic choices in pluralist and unitarist employment relations regimes: a study of Australian telecommunication’ Industrial and labor relations review, 63, 1, pp. 24-41.

Upchurch M, 2010, ‘Creating a sustainable work environment in British Airways: implicationsof the 2010 cabin crew dispute’, Technical Report, Middlesex University, London.

Download full paperFile format: .doc, available for editing
Contact Us