British Airways strike action, a game theory example

British Airways cabin crew have taken strike action for 22 days in the last 18 months (BBC story), it now looks like the strike action is close to ending, but was there a better way to handle this?

The problem with taking strike action is that the company, the employees and the customers all suffer. The dispute is between the company and the employees and the customers get ‘caught in the crossfire’. In the worst case the strike might put customers off for good, putting the company out of business and the employees out of work. The size of the pie that they are fighting over is getting smaller each time there is a strike and if it goes too far there might be no pie at all!

One way out of this is for the employees to carry out a ‘virtual’ strike. This means that they keep working but don’t get paid and the company gives the profits or revenue from the strike days to charity, or offers the service to customers for free. Exactly how this is worked out will depend on the industry but, whatever the details are, the customers don’t suffer and in fact might feel better about the company after the strike.

This isn’t just a theoretical thing and has actually happened in Italy before. There are a number of questions that need to be resolved for it to work well, if you want to read more these are covered in detail in this article.

This isn’t just about strikes, whenever you are in a dispute where both sides are losing out as time goes by then you should look for a solution that preserves the prize that is being argued over while the dispute is resolved.

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