A union that represents British Airways cabin crew at Gatwick Airport claims black and minority ethnic (BME) cabin crew have been disproportionately affected by forced redundancies according to a survey conducted by The Gatwick Union. The survey revealed British Airways “sacked or demoted” every single Black Customer Service Manager (the most senior cabin crew role), while 59 per cent of Black cabin crew were made redundant.
In comparison, the union says only 45 per cent of their white colleagues were selected for involuntary redundancy.
British Airways said in response to the claims that it operates “a fair and transparent recruitment process, and strongly rejects any claim that race plays a part in our selection procedure.” A spokesperson refuted the claims made by the union, saying in a statement: “As a global company, we promote a diverse and inclusive culture, and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind”.
The union did not provide further details about the survey and did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It’s not known how many cabin crew responded to the survey or whether the results also include cabin crew who opted for voluntary redundancy. Unlike in some countries, the cabin crew union does not represent all BA crew based at Gatwick.
On Friday, British Airways sent out redundancy notices to around 4,000 cabin crew and other workers as part of its cost-cutting response to the Corona crisis. The Unite union described it as a “bleak day in BA’s history”, accusing the airline of “industrial thuggery”.
It’s believed that around 6,000 employees voluntarily decided to leave the airline with an enhanced severance package, while a further 4,000 will be forced to leave the company. Gatwick airport-based staffers have been particulary badly affected because British Airways intends to dramatically reduce its operation there and instead move the majority of flights to its Heathrow base.
The airline is believed to have considered a number of factors in its selection criteria, including performance and customer satisfaction scores. Controversially, the airline also considered sickness as a factor – union’s fear this will dissuade safety-critical aviation workers from reporting sick when they are not fit to work and in turn could put safety at risk.
Additionally, onboard managers were required to take a leadership assessment. It’s understood the selection criteria were applied without human involvement or subjective marking.
Throughout the last few months, British Airways has maintained that it has done everything to reduce and mitigate the number of redunancies but that it was forced to take action to ensure the survival of the company in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
BA’s parent company recently reported a €1.9 billion loss for the first six months of 2020 and weekly cash burn remains at around €205 million. The airline doesn’t anticipate a recovery in the air transport industry until 2024 at the earliest.
Around 16 per cent of BA’s workforce has declared a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background according to the airline’s latest report published last month. The airline’s parent company said that is “recognises” that “as in many companies, there are fewer people from a BAME background in more senior roles and this is something we are working to address.”
The report continued: “In 2019, British Airways joined 80 other organisations in making a public commitment to the Business in the Community (BITC) Race at Work Charter in tackling barriers to BAME recruitment and career progression.”
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.