The leader of Britain’s largest union has launched a scathing attack on British Airways over its “shock” announcement that could see as many 12,000 employees made redundant because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In an open letter to staffers, chief executive Alex Cruz said the “outlook for the aviation industry has worsened further” and that the “scale of this challenge requires substantial change”.
But Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union claims the decision by British Airways is both unlawful and immoral. The union had been closely involved in setting up a special government-funded Coronavirus job retention scheme in which taxpayers pick up 80 per cent of an employees wages.
British Airways had agreed to place over 22,000 of its workforce on furlough to avoid redundancies but Cruz now says British Airways “cannot expect the taxpayer to offset salaries indefinitely”. The British government has initially extended the furlough scheme through to the end of June.
“BA has taken a unilateral and selfish action that could imperil an already very fragile aviation industry – and so a great many jobs – in this country,” McCluskey said of the airline’s decision.
“UK taxpayers have not handed over their money to BA for it to embark on an opportunistic course of slashing jobs, conditions and wages, and potentially jeopardising jobs right across the aviation sector.”
There is a growing sentiment that British Airways is using the Corona-crisis as an excuse to slash wages and change terms and conditions for many of its employees. Yesterday, it was revealed that the airline intends to “reshape” its cabin crew by moving staff on well-paid legacy contracts onto cheaper contracts like those already worked by so-called ‘Mixed Fleet’ cabin crew.
Internal documents reveal that BA intends to axe more than 1,000 pilot roles and cabin crew have been told that the airline will “significantly reduce the size of our cabin crew team”.
If British Airways goes ahead with plans to “throw 12,000 workers onto the scrap heap”, it would represent a loss of a third of BA’s entire 42,000 workforce.
“BA built its reputation on being the `world’s favourite airline’ but by pursuing this needlessly drastic course it risks becoming better known as the destroyer of UK jobs and aviation,” McCluskey warned. The GMB union, which represents many ground staff at the airline said its reps would “work day and night” to limit the impact of the redundancy proposals.
Alex Cruz has told staff that there “is no government bailout standing by for BA” – The airline has refused to say whether the UK government has even been approached to discuss a bailout. Competitors including the likes of Air France have already secured taxpayer-funded bailouts.
Major U.S.-based airlines have also taken advantage of a bailout to keep the wages of workers funded through to the end of September.
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.