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New Details: British Airways Plans to Axe 4,700 Cabin Crew at Heathrow, Shutter Gatwick Operations

New Details: British Airways Plans to Axe 4,700 Cabin Crew at Heathrow, Shutter Gatwick Operations

British Airways intends to cut more than a third of its cabin crew workforce at Heathrow Airport and reports suggest it is also looking to shutter its operations at Gatwick Airport completely because of the Coronavirus pandemic. In a letter sent to union bosses, the airline’s head of Inflight Customer Experience said a total of 4,700 cabin crew would be made redundant under current plans which could be finalised by early June.

Amy James said redundancies were necessary as the airline reached a “critical juncture” in its handling of the Corona-crisis. The airline is also planning to axe more than 1,000 pilot roles, with a total of 12,000 jobs at risk across the entire business. The BALPA union which represent pilots said it was “fighting to save every pilot job at BA”.

Photo Credit: British Airways

“Our proposals include employee headcount reductions across the business based on a range of projections, along with structural change to ensure that we are in a competitive and resilient position going forward,” James wrote in a leaked letter to the Unite union’s head of civil aviation.

James said that redundancies alone would not be enough to weather the COVID-19 storm, confirming reports that the carrier intends to implement wide-sweeping changes to terms and conditions for all cabin crew.

“Mixed Fleet work to scheduling arrangements that allow some flexibility to meet the needs of the operation, whilst both Eurofleet and Worldwide operate to more complex and less flexible scheduling arrangements. The overall cost, productivity and versatility of these working arrangements are significantly more complex than they should be if we are to confront the challenges we have and to compete effectively,” she wrote.

British Airways would like to create a single group of cabin crew who work on a variety of aircraft and operate both short and long-haul flights. In addition, the airline would rip up current contracts on performance, absence, pay scales and ranks, and allowances.

If the Unite union does not agree with the changes, James said the airline will fire its entire cabin crew workforce and then offer jobs under the new contract. Those willing to sign up to the contract would be expected to be temporarily laid off without pay until the situation improves.

The consultation period will take just 45 days and no ‘enhanced’ voluntary redundancy programme will be offered.

But the Unite union claims BA’s proposal is “illegal” and have vowed to mount a legal challenge against the proposed changes. There is a growing sentiment that British Airways is using the pandemic as an excuse to lower working conditions for longterm financial gain.

Out of a total 12,402 cabin crew in ‘non-supervisory’ roles, British Airways intends to let go of 3,811. For cabin crew in supervisory positions, 889 jobs would be lost out of workforce of 1,860.

British Airways says it now expects it to take several years before travel demand has picked up to levels seen just before the Coronavirus pandemic and that it will face tough competition from airlines that have been offered government-backed financial bailouts. British Airways has refused to ask for government assistance.

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