A cross-party group of Members of Parliament (MP’s) have proposed a law that would stop British Airways pushing ahead with a controversial “fire and rehire” strategy that could see the airline sack its entire 42,000 strong workforce. The airline has taken flak from all sides over the proposals that would involve 30,000 employees being re-employed on drastically reduced terms and conditions, although the plans are perfectly legal under current British law.
The Employment (Dismissal and Re-employment) Bill 2019-2021 was introduced as a private member’s Bill by Scottish MP Gavin Newlands on Tuesday and has already won support from lawmakers from across the political spectrum. Newlands said the law would prohibit employers from dismissing workers to then rehire them for the purpose of diminishing their terms and conditions.
Cabin crew and ground staff unions accuse British Airways of exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to realise a longheld ambition to attack workers terms and conditions and have refused to take part in what they describe as a “rubber stamp” consultation process. The GMB union, which represent ground staff, likened the current consultation to having a “gun pointed at your head”.
But the issue that has so enraged many workers at the airline is that British Airways says it could fire and then rehire workers if an agreement on the proposals cannot be found with the unions. Current plans leaked by insiders would see many staff have their wages slashed by as much as 70 per cent.
British Airways, however, says radical changes need to be made because the airline industry is undergoing its most dramatic structural change ever. According to British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz, the airline is currently haemorrhaging £175million every week. Industry experts say it could take three years for the industry to recover from the Corona crisis.
Last week, MP’s blasted the airline during an emergency debate on the issue in the Houses of Parliament. During the debate, Conservative MP Huw Merriman accused British Airways of “betraying Britain” with its plans to fire employees while accepting a £300 million low-interest loan from the British government and using millions more of taxpayer money from a furlough scheme designed specifically to stop job losses because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Merriman won support from across the chamber when he suggested British Airways should be stripped of its legacy takeoff slots at Heathrow Airport if it went ahead with the mass lay-offs. Cruz hit back at that suggestion in a leaked internal memo, saying unions were trying to trash the British Airways brand.
But what chance does this proposed law have of stopping current proposals started by British Airways? As a so-called private members bill, it has little hope of ever actually becoming law unless it is picked up with urgency by the government. British Airways may be able to issue redundancy notices from June 15 for the majority of employees, while pilots could follow on July 18.
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.