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British Airways Heading for “Winter of Discontent” Over Mass Job Losses

British Airways Heading for “Winter of Discontent” Over Mass Job Losses

British Airways is headed for a winter of discontent after forcing thousands of workers into “punitive and insecure zero hours-type contracts” the Unite union claimed on Thursday. The union, which represents cabin crew and many ground staff, says it is readying strike action as well as thousands of legal claims against the airline after 10,000 employees were made redundant as part of BA’s response to the Corona crisis.

“BA’s appalling behaviour puts that of a Victorian mill owner to shame,” the unions’ assistant general secretary Howard Beckett blasted. “Make no mistake however, this fight is far from over. In fact, it’s only just beginning.”

In a highly emotive letter to BA’s chief executive, the head of Unite Len McCluskey previously said the union would immediately prepare industrial action if BA pushed ahead with its redundancy plan. British Airways has already informed a total of 10,000 workers they will be made redundant – 6,000 opted to take voluntary redundant, with the rest forced out.

“There can be no peace while this wealthy business is determined to make the lowest paid pay the highest price in an opportunistic re-structuring while the better-off get to keep their pay and conditions,” Beckett continued.

“Unite is utterly determined that BA will not get away with this thuggery, and we will fight this grotesque abuse of decent working people with every tool at our disposal.  If that means months of going through the courts and taking strike action to protect workers, so be it.  BA has left these workers and its union no other choice.”

British Airways has maintained all along that it needs to significantly reduce its workforce in order to cut costs and in turn survive the Corona crisis. Chief executive Alex Cruz argues that while the COVID-19 pandemic is not of its making, it must take responsibility for ensuring the longterm success of the company.

A spokesperson for the airline has previously told us that BA was committed to consulting with unions in order to reduce and mitigate job losses.

But Unite claims BA has misled the media and its own employees over settlements it has reached with the union. Beckett says many workgroups, including cabin crew and ground services staff, are still resisting so-called ‘fire and rehire’ plans that could see some staff placed on new contracts with wages slashed by nearly half.

The union also claims Black and minority ethnic staff have been disproportionately affected by the layoffs because BA failed to undertake an equality impact assessment. Last week, the Gatwick Union claimed every single Black onboard manager had been made redundant.

BA refuted the claims and said it was committed to equality and treating all of its employees fairly.

So far, no strike action has been announced and staff are still to be balloted on whether they support taking industrial action against the airline. British Airways believes it could take until at least 2024 for the airline industry to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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