In a bizarre and contradictory letter, the head of the parent company that owns British Airways said that he welcomed the extension of a taxpayer-funded job support scheme, telling members of parliament that it would “provide some additional relief to our people”. But rather than using the scheme as intended, Willie Walsh the chief executive of International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), said BA would push ahead with mass layoffs that unions and lawmakers have described as “cynical and opportunistic”.
“I was pleased to see the announcement by the Chancellor that the CJRS (Coronavirus job retention scheme) is being extended. We commend the Chancellor for his decision and applaud his efforts to breathe some life into a dying economy,” Walsh wrote in a letter to a parliamentary committee on transport. “His actions will provide some additional relief to our people and our business,” Walsh continued.
“However, we must act now to secure the maximum number of jobs possible, consistent with the reality of a structurally changed airline industry in a severely weakened global economy. I want to confirm therefore that we will not pause our consultations or put our plans on hold.”
British Airways plans to make 12,000 of its employees permanently redundant in as little as four weeks time – nearly a third of its entire workforce. The airline has also laid out plans to temporarily sack every single employee and then ‘invite’ select workers back to their jobs but on significantly reduced terms and conditions.
When Walsh appeared before the committee earlier this week he told members of parliament that he could not comment on the airline’s redundancy plans as they were subject to consultations with union representatives.
Chair of the committee, Huw Merriman has since hit out at the response from Walsh, saying BA’s decision to follow through with the “devastating cuts” were “disappointing” and “not what people would expect from our national flag carrier”. Merriman also criticised the airline for being “happy to take taxpayers’ money” from a scheme designed to save jobs, while forcing through a “cull” of its “loyal” workforce.
“The coronavirus has provided cover for the single most callous action ever seen by any major British company,” the Unite union told its members on Thursday night. “With behaviour so extreme that the press, public and not least Parliament have been left staggered at the unapologetically brutal behaviour of a supposedly flagship British brand, in the midst of national and indeed a global crisis.”
The union warned its members that new details of the proposals were set to be revealed on Friday by head of Inflight Customer Experience, Amy James. “Please be prepared. If she does so this will cause anger, worry and despair and is the most shockingly callous and destructive document ever sent by a British company,” the memo continued.
“It is a disgraceful blueprint, designed to destroy the lives of thousands of hard working, loyal employees with neither conscience nor remorse.”
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.