A third of easyJet’s 2,300 UK-based pilots face being made redundant according to the BALPA pilots union who described the mass lay-offs as an “excessive over-reaction” to the massive slump in travel demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Brian Strutton, BALPA’s general secretary said the union had been expecting a proposal for temporary measures but was instead taken by surprise with the redundancy plan.
easyJet says a total of 727 pilots are now at risk of being made redundant, including around 651 full-time positions. Around 80 per cent of easyJet’s pilots remain on a taxpayer-funded furlough scheme, while other pilots accepted pay cuts of over third two their usual monthly salary at the start of the crisis.
BALPA has been attempting to negotiate voluntary redundancy options and temporary measures for what it sees as a temporary problem rather than pilots facing being laid-off. Despite describing the actions of rival British Airways in negotiations as “appalling” the union has been able to negotiate a voluntary severance package and a part-time contract in a bid to reduce loss losses.
“We know that aviation is in the midst of the COVID crisis and we had been expecting easyJet to make an announcement of temporary measures to help the airline through to recovery,” Strutton commented on Tuesday.
“But this seems an excessive over-reaction and easyJet won’t find a supply of pilots waiting to come back when the recovery takes place over the next two years.”
Strutton was particularly critical of easyJet’s decision to pay out £174 million in shareholder dividends in March when the scale of the Corona crisis was becoming painfully obvious. easyJet says it had already committed to paying out the dividends and was legally obligated to follow through with its promise.
BALPA also hit out at the Luton-based airline’s decision to take a £600 million government-backed loan without any guarantee of minimising job losses. The airline is still considering building a multi-billion pound new headquarters much to the annoyance of trade unions.
easyjet has restarted a small number of routes after grounding its entire fleet for three months because of Europe-wide lockdown restrictions. Further easing of travel restrictions are set to allow easyJet to ramp up its schedule through July and August.
“Ticket sales are going through the roof so fast they cannot get pilots back off furlough quickly enough – so why the panic?” Strutton asked. “It doesn’t add up. We are meeting easyJet today and we will be fighting to save every single job,” he continued.
The union once again called on the British government to intervene to save the UK aviation industry – a measure that Ministers are reluctant to embrace.
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.