The leader of Labour’s biggest union donor has accused David Lammy of launching a “direct attack” on British Airways workers.
Sharon Graham, boss of the powerful Unite union, hit out at the senior Labor MP after he condemned the proposed strikes.
On Sunday morning the shadow foreign secretary said he “categorically” did not support a potential strike by BA check-in staff.
In a fierce rebuke, Unite’s general secretary accused Labor of a “new low” and said it showed politicians had “failed” workers.
She said Unite’s BA members were fighting to restore the 10 per cent pay cut they were handed by the airline during the pandemic.
Graham added: “David Lammy has chosen to launch a direct attack on British Airways workers.
“This dispute is not about a pay rise – it’s about restoring money taken out of workers’ pockets by an opportunistic employer.
“Supporting bad bosses is a new low for Labor and once again shows that politicians have failed. It is now down to the trade unions to defend working people. We are their only voice.”
Speaking to broadcasters on the Sunday morning news round, Lammy said Labor continues to support negotiations and a deal when it comes to disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.
Asked if he would support BA staff who are being balloted by the GMB and Unite unions to strike, he told BBC News on Sunday: “All of us are feeling the pinch with inflation.
“Many of us might want a (pay) rise of 10 per cent; in truth, most people understand it’s unlikely that you’re going to get that.
“It absolutely would not be right, it would not be responsible opposition, if I suggested yes to every strike.”
Pressed on whether he supports the proposed strike by check-in staff, he said: “No, I don’t. No I don’t – it is a no, it’s a categorical no.”
Asked why, he said: “Because I’m serious about the business of being in government and the business of being in government is that you support negotiation.”
Lammy also said he didn’t support last week’s rail strikes because they “hurt” working people.
He said a Labor government would be negotiating and trying to reach a resolution to the dispute, adding: “This is not a moment for posturing and standing on picket lines.”
Labor leader Keir Starmer asked shadow cabinet members and their teams not to join the pro-strike demonstrations.
However, a number of Labor frontbenchers defied him to appear alongside striking railway workers on picket lines.