British Airways has been labelled a “national disgrace” by an influential Parliamentary committee on transportation over the airline’s plans to make 12,000 employees redundant and slash the terms and conditions of those who remain. A report looking into how the aviation industry is being slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic concluded that the behaviour of British Airways towards its workers “falls well below the standards we would expect from any employer”.
The Transportation Selection Committee urged airlines to delay mass lay-off’s until there was a clearer picture of how long it might take for the aviation industry to recover from the Corona crisis. Many airlines and industry bodies believe any recovery will take between 2 – 3 years and British Airways has said it expects to be a substantially smaller airline for the foreseeable future.
“The impact of coronavirus may sadly mean that the loss of some jobs in the aviation sector is justified. The behaviour of British Airways and its parent company, IAG, is not,” commented the chair of the committee, Huw Merriman – a Conservative Member of Parliament who has been a vocal critic of the airline’s so-called ‘fire and rehire’ plans.
Merriman slammed the airline, saying of BA’s behaviour: “It falls well below the standards expected from any employer, especially in light of the scale of taxpayer subsidy, at this time of national crisis. It is unacceptable that a company would seek to drive this level of change under the cover of a pandemic.”
A legal consultation process over the proposed redundancies is set to expire on Monday, June 15. If unions do not agree to the changes proposed by British Airways, the airline will then be free to fire its entire workforce and invite 30,000 employees back on massively reduced terms and conditions.
Both the Unite and GMB unions have so far refused to negotiate with the airline, describing the consultation as a “sham” and likening it to having “a gun pointed to your head”. The BALPA pilots union have been negotiating with British Airways but said those talks were now “hanging by a thread” after BA added the ‘fire and rehire’ clause last week.
“Never before has the country witnessed such wholesale mistreatment of a UK workforce and such brutal industrial thuggery. MPs are totally right to say that this must be stopped,” commented Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union last night.
But lawmakers admit there is little they can do to stop what they describe as the “calculated attempt to take advantage of the pandemic to cut jobs and weaken the terms and conditions of its remaining employees”. They admit that a government-backed furlough scheme doesn’t stop employers making workers redundant, while a suggestion to strip BA of valuable takeoff slots at Heathrow would be “difficult” and could take years.
Instead, the committee urges British Airways to extend its consultation to allow for “meaningful” discussion and has called on a controversial 14-day home quarantine order for new arrivals to be scrapped.
“We are not persuaded that a blanket quarantine policy is the right policy option at this time compared to the alternatives,” the reports explains. At the end of June, the MP’s have called on the government to scrap the quarantine for a more “flexible and risk-based approach” which would also allow airlines to restart flights.
British Airways says it is experiencing the biggest structural change the airline industry has ever experienced and must take action now to protect as many jobs as possible. The airline has urged unions to take part in the consultation process.
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.