Secret talks between European low-cost airline easyJet and trade unions representing pilots and cabin crew have allegedly reached a stalemate as the two sides negotiate an urgent agreement brought about by the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Like nearly every airline in the world, easyJet has been slammed by the pandemic and has been forced to temporarily ground the majority of its fleet.
easyJet is understood to have asked all staff to take at least three months of unpaid leave to weather the immediate storm and huge slump in passenger demand but also wants to introduce a slew of other changes.
The proposals are said to have been met with an “angry response” by pilots and cabin crew but the Unite union has denied allegations made by Peter Bellew, the airline’s recently appointed chief operations officer, that the union had rejected all of the proposals.
“Peter Bellew is deliberately misleading his investors and his employees with such statements. At this time when people want to see businesses and unions pulling together this is an extremely unhelpful approach to take,” the union wrote in a statement.
There has also been speculation that the union had tabled the idea of compulsory redundancies rather than making all staff share the pain with a period of unpaid leave. An allegation the union denies.
“Unite did not and would not indicate that compulsory redundancies are a preferable alternative to the current proposed collective agreement on the table,” explained Oliver Richard, the union’s national officer of aviation.
“Unite has asked the company to explore a range of cost-saving options including the possibility of offering voluntary redundancies.”
Among the cost-cutting ideas suggested by easyJet under what it called its “coronavirus cooperation agreement” include:
- Pay rises axed until 2021
- Changes to working patterns and schedules
- Defer pay rises for newly-appointed Captains for six months
- No longer providing food for crew
The agreement would take effect from March 23 until November 2021.
Unite has denied suggestions that it has rejected all the proposals put forward by easyJet, while the BALPA trade union declined to comment because the negotiations were still ongoing.
“EasyJet has met with its employee representatives in the UK to discuss how they can help the airline navigate through these unprecedented time,” the airline said in a statement.
“Like all airlines we are taking every action to remove cost and non-critical expenditure from the business at every level to help mitigate the impact from the Covid-9 pandemic.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.