A new poll of over 2,000 members of the public, including more than 1,000 regular British Airways flyers, has revealed that the majority believe the airline is taking advantage of the Corona crisis in order to boost shareholder profits. More than the two-thirds said a controversial ‘fire and rehire’ scheme that British Airways has proposed is wrong and said takeoff and landing slots should be reviewed as a result.
The poll was commissioned by the Unite union who represents the majority of British Airways cabin crew and several ground staff workgroups. The union and British Airways are embroiled in an increasingly bitter dispute over plans to axe as many as 12,000 workers and slash the terms and conditions of employees who remain.
The ‘fire and rehire’ plan comes from proposals to sack every single employee if British Airways fails to reach an agreement with the union over its cost-cutting and redundancy plans. Around two-thirds of workers would then be reemployed on lesser terms and conditions – a plan that 70 per cent of those polled said was wrong.
A further 61 per cent of the British public said the airline was taking advantage of a national crisis to boost shareholder profits. Just 20 per cent said they didn’t believe British Airways was taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for takeoff and landing slots, 69 per cent said these should be reviewed in light of what the airline has proposed. That number increased to 76 per cent amongst Conservative voters who traditionally back business over workers rights. British Airways controls over half of the slots at its Heathrow stronghold and many were given to the airline as a gift from the government.
“It’s clear that Britain wants the government to get tough on the nation’s flag-carrying airline for its disgraceful plans to fire and rehire its staff while cutting thousands of jobs,” claimed Unite’s executive officer, Sharon Graham.
“The airline is stripping its loyal workforce of their terms and conditions while sacking thousands in the middle of a health crisis. If BA press ahead to create a new and unrecognisable airline, it should not continue to benefit from its domination of lucrative legacy take-off and landing slots,” she continued.
British Airways says the airline industry is going through the largest structural change in history and must act now in order to preserve as many jobs as possible. The airline says no final decisions have yet been made and wants to consult with the union to discuss the plans.
At the height of the pandemic, British Airways was losing up to £20 million a day and estimates it may take the airline industry between two and three years to recover back to levels seen in early 2020.
Despite claiming to have offered to meet with union officials over 200 times, initial talks stalled last week after the airline refused to hand over crucial information to Unite negotiators.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA’s parent company has backed the airline’s approach, saying the airline would not change its position, while “formally rejecting” a claim made by influential lawmakers that British Airways was a “national disgrace” over its treatment of workers.
“British Airways has lost the trust of its workforce, politicians and the country,” Graham continued. “The only way British Airways can retrieve its reputation as the world’s best loved airline and protect its lucrative landing slots, is to withdraw its unprecedented attack on staff and enter into sensible negotiations.”
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.