A long-serving member of British Airways cabin crew died by suicide on Thursday according to a union boss who also revealed details about another BA crew member suffering a mental breakdown and a third who went missing after posting a ‘goodbye’ message to friends, family and loved ones. The tragic death of the unnamed crew member comes just days before British Airways is set to fire its entire 42,000 strong workforce and then selectively rehire 30,000 of its employees on much-reduced terms and conditions.
The proposals have had a significant effect on staffers. A recent survey of British Airways employees found 96 per cent had reported suffering mental health issues after the airline made the decision to slash 12,000 jobs. A staggering 52 per cent said they or a colleague they knew had thought of self-harming or suicide, while 78 per cent said relationships with loved ones had suffered because of BA’s proposals.
In a Tweet posted on Saturday night, the Unite union’s assistant general secretary Howard Beckett wrote: “Tragically a long-serving male BA cabin crew member committed suicide yesterday. He was on a disciplinary process. Regrettably included in BA’s intended changes to our collective agreements is that disciplinary is a major criteria for selecting those for redundancy. RIP.”
A British Airways source, however, claimed the crew member was no longer working for the airline after being dismissed last year. The decision had already been upheld at an appeal.
Less than two weeks ago, Beckett claimed another member of cabin crew was being treated in a mental health hospital after suffering a breakdown brought on by the stress caused by BA’s redundancy proposals. The female crew member posted a video criticising Willie Walsh, the boss of BA’s parent company shortly before being detained.
A third crew member is said to have gone missing on the same day prompting a police search but no further details were made available.
“We do not underestimate how difficult this period is for everyone, which is why every communication with our colleagues since the consultation has started has included guidance on options available to give support to anyone who needs it,” a British Airways spokesperson told us.
“We provide a free, confidential 24-hour support service, plus the offer of counselling with health professionals, our own in-house medical team as well as a well-being app provided for all colleagues and extensive welfare advice on our intranet,” the statement continued.”
The Unite union claims some crew members will face pay cuts of up to 65 per cent if BA’s current proposals pushed through. British Airways has set a deadline of June 15 to complete consultations with its unions and says it is still considering ways to mitigate or reduce the job losses.
The Unite union have described the proposals as akin to throwing its employees onto the “scrapheap” and accused British Airways of “smash and grab opportunism.” The union has vowed to fight the airline over the proposed job losses, arguing they are not only immoral but possibly also illegal.
Last week, the same union accused British Airways of “betraying Britain” over its decision to make so many workers redundant. “BA’s plan to use the worst health crisis in a century to strip loyal workers of their terms and conditions is a betrayal of workers and of Britain,” claimed general secretary Len McCluskey.
“Unite has tried to engage constructively with British Airways,” McCluskey continued. If BA are not trying to use this crisis for corporate gain, then why has the company not agreed to come to the table to seek temporary measures until revenue returns?
It’s okay not to feel okay. There is always someone you can talk to at times of need and you don’t have to deal with times of hardship or pain on your own. You can find confidential talking services in your local area by using the free search facility offered by Befrienders Worldwide.
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.