One of the UK’s largest trade unions has launched a stinging attack on British Airways and its decision to unexpectedly close an international cabin crew base in Hong Kong. Unite the union called the airline’s decision, which was made under the auspices of unspecified commercial reasons, “callous and outrageous”.
A couple of days ago, we reported the news that Hong Kong-based crew at the UK flag carrier had been called in by airline management with little notice for one-on-one meetings. The cabin crew, who number 89 in total, were told the base was to be closed with immediate effect – they would be made immediately redundant and only receive seven days worth of severance pay.
It’s now emerged the crew were told to accept immediate termination in order to receive severance pay or be let go without any compensation whatsoever. The staff were handed letters which demanded they immediately hand over their uniforms and ID passes.
In recent years, British Airways has closed a number of other international cabin crew bases, including Singapore but insiders claim the way this closure has been handled is very different, with no consultation and no opportunity to redeploy affected staff. Critics have blamed Hong Kong’s business-friendly employment laws which the crew operated under.
“The actions of British Airways are both callous and outrageous,” commented Unite the Union’s national officer for air transport Oliver Richardson.
“Even if BA’s actions are legal under Hong Kong law they break all moral codes of human and workplace dignity. BA must revoke this decision and enter into full negotiations with BAHKCCA (the union which represents BA crew in Hong Kong) to develop a proper procedure to ensure that workers are treated fairly and with respect.”
The union is hoping that British Airways will reverse its decision or at the very least investigate whether affected staff can be redeployed to other parts of the business.
“If BA refuses to change course then it deserves the full and total condemnation of the international community which will further tarnish its brand and worldwide standing,” Richarson said – although it was unclear whether the union for UK-based had any options for redress if the airline didn’t change tact.
Analysts suggest the airline’s poor performance on its London and Hong Kong service was the main reason why British Airways chose to shutter the cabin crew base so suddenly. The airline has operated the route for 82-years but has struggled in recent times against fierce competition from the likes of the territory’s homegrown airline, Cathay Pacific and Persian Gulf heavyweights.
In a statement, British Airways said it was committed to serving Hong Kong and expected passengers to receive a high standard of service despite the loss of local staff.