Some members of cabin crew at British Airways are so fearful of losing everything after a threat of mass redundancies that they have openly said their “only way out is to end it”. Last week, British Airways announced plans to slash as many as 12,000 jobs across the business, including nearly 5,000 cabin crew because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Job losses may come as early as June 15 with many of those made redundant offered only the minimum required redundancy pay.
The Unite union described the plan as akin to throwing its employees onto a “scrapheap” and has accused British Airways of “smash and grab opportunism.” The union has vowed to fight the airline over the proposed job losses, arguing that they are not only immoral but possibly also illegal.
“It is of great concern and upset we have read on social media, crew thinking that the only way out is to ‘end it’ so the family can cash in on their death in service (that being the only option of keeping their home),” the union wrote in a memo to its cabin crew members on Sunday.
“We have had many heart-breaking conversations with crew who are terrified of losing their jobs and homes. Many find themselves in situations where both work for the airline and are at risk of losing everything. Others are on their own with nobody else to rely on and talk to. Some single parents terrified how they will get by,” the memo continued.
The union said it was “of great concern” to see a “deterioration of our members’ mental health” which was prompted by a “disgraceful” announcement from BA’s head of in-flight customer experience Amy James.
James wrote to cabin crew last week, saying that crew who managed to keep their jobs would be offered new contracts on vastly reduced terms and conditions. The job offers will effectively be so-called ‘zero hour’ contracts and crew will be expected to go unpaid until air travel demand picks up.
That letter was then followed by a reminder to “stayed focussed whilst flying” and a warning that crew should not vent their frustrations on social media.
“We know, whilst Amy James and her cohorts feel safe and secure after delivering this horrendous message, their scant regard and lack of compassion to those that are suffering has been duly noted,” the union message continued.
Around 22,000 British Airways employees are currently on a government furlough scheme which offers 80 per cent of their wages paid for by the taxpayer. But BA chief executive, Alex Cruz said the airline couldn’t take advantage of this scheme forever and that job cuts were necessary to secure the future of the airline.
British Airways has so far refused to apply for further government support in the form of a bailout. The airline’s parent company has, however, secured a €1 billion loan from Spanish government to support Iberia and low-cost Spanish airline Vueling.
Lawmakers have called on Cruz to appear before a government transport committee to explain the airline’s actions but he has so far refused to attend the meeting. British Airways said it could not comment while it continued consultations with its unions.
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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.