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British Airways Appoints Industrial Relations Czar in Bid to Head Off Wave of Summer Strike Action

British Airways Appoints Industrial Relations Czar in Bid to Head Off Wave of Summer Strike Action

an airplane on the tarmac

In yet another shakeup of senior management at British Airways, the airline has hired a new Director of Industrial Relations to help the carrier “navigate through the next phase” of its recovery from the pandemic.

Tom Keeney will join the airline in the newly created role just as ground workers including check-in agents and boarding gate staff prepare to vote in a formal strike ballot that could cripple BA’s operations at its Heathrow Airport base during the summer holidays.

Keeney started off his management career supervising security staff at Heathrow when it was still operated by the British Airports Authority. He says he was “young and naive” but that early experience taught him “how to deal with a diverse team in a highly unionised environment”.

He has spent much of the rest of his career working with unions, including more than 20 years at telecom giant BT. During his time at BT, Keeney worked on the creation of Openreach and managed workforce reduction programmes, as well as a pension programme shakeup.

His most recent role at BT was as Group Director of Organisational Effectiveness, Employee Relations and Workforce Management. Keeney has also worked as an independent contractor with a number of blue-chip companies including Net a Porter, as well as the Metropolitan Police and the UK’s National Health Service.

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle has overseen a shakeup of senior managers at the airline over the last few weeks as he seeks to set a new course for the embattled airline.

Senior executives responsible for daily operations, IT and customer experience have all been replaced, moved into other roles, or had responsibility stripped from them.

BA’s chief information and digital officer, Anthony Allcock is to leave the company and external hire Dirk John will take his place in a bid to fix the carrier’s crumbling IT infrastructure that has been responsible for several embarrassing meltdowns in recent months.

Chief customer officer Tom Stevens has also decided to ‘voluntarily’ leave the business and will be succeeded by Calum Laming, alumni of luxury Gulf carrier Etihad Airways, as well as low-cost carrier Vueling which is owned by the same parent company as British Airways.

And chief operating officer Jason Mahoney has had his responsibilities slashed as part of the shakeup and will take on the role of chief technical officer. Earlier this year, BA also announced new appointments for its Director of Business Recovery and Chief People Officer.

Last week, the Unite and GMB unions warned travellers that they faced a summer of “holiday chaos” as its members working as check-in agents and ground staff prepared to vote in a formal strike ballot.

Nadine Houghton, GMB’s National Officer said workers were prepared to claim back “what they had robbed from them due to BA’s callous fire and rehire during the pandemic”.

The largest cabin crew union at the airline has warned British Airways that it faces a “summer of discontent” if urgent changes are not made.

A spokesperson for British Airways said: “Our colleagues are the heart of our business and we are continuing to talk with their union representatives.”

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  • God what has become of BA these days… absolutely run into the ground! Wouldn’t book them for the foreseeable esp with many competitors now much better, even the US based carriers and that’s saying something! Website shocking, customer service lacking, probably end up with your flight being cancelled (worst case) or at your end point with no bags!

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