All of British Airways’ Heathrow-based cabin crew have been asked to take at least four weeks of unpaid leave in order to reduce the number of redundancies required as the airline looks to shrink and cut costs in the face of the threat posed by the Corona crisis. Cabin crew have been told that “many hundreds of jobs” could be saved if everyone agrees to the cost-cutting measure.
A total of 4,700 cabin crew positions have been earmarked for possible redundancy – around a third of the total cabin crew workforce based at Heathrow Airport. Out of a total of 12,402 cabin crew in ‘non-supervisory’ roles, British Airways said as many as 3,811 might be made redundant, while 889 onboard managers could also face being laid off.
The Unite union, which represents many of BA’s cabin crew, is currently in dispute with the airline over the plans for mass-layoffs, as well as plans to slash the terms and conditions of longer serving crew. Some crew, it is claimed, could face pay cuts of up to 50 per cent under initial proposals put forward by the airline.
British Airways, however, says no final decisions have yet been made and are doing everything they can to “avoid, reduce or mitigate” redundancies.
“We are acting now to protect as many jobs possible,” a British Airways spokesperson said of the news that unpaid leave could be an option to reduce the number of redundancies. “The airline industry is facing the deepest structural change in its history, as well as facing a severely weakened global economy,’ the statement continued.
“We call on Unite and GMB to consult with us on our proposals as our pilot union, BALPA, is doing. Working together we can protect more jobs as we prepare for a new future.”
So far, no formal talks have taken place between British Airways and the unions that represent cabin crew, engineers and some ground staff. They have instead called on British Airways to remove the threat of a controversial ‘fire and rehire’ strategy and want to see proposals for temporary solutions for what they see as a temporary problem.
In the last few weeks, British Airways has also suggested offering voluntary severance packages to some staffers as another method of reducing the numbers that will need to be made involuntarily redundant.
Unpaid leaves of absence are being used widely by U.S.-based airlines to reduce payroll costs, while the method has also been utilised at a number of other international airlines including the likes of Cathay Pacific.
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.