Unite’s Howard Beckett has urged the incoming British Airways CEO to abandon the previous regime’s “fire and rehire policy” and open up a “new chapter of constructive relations”.
The newly appointed CEO of British Airways has been urged to begin a new era of constructive relations with workers and trade unions following this week’s departure of Alex Cruz.
Incoming chief executive Sean Doyle, who has moved from fellow International Airlines Group (IAG) airline Aer Lingus, should move away from the controversial “fire and rehire” approach to the COVID-19 crisis that was pursued by his predecessor.
The call has come from Unite’s assistant general secretary Howard Beckett at a time when IAG chief Luis Gallego has admitted the group is confronting “the worst crisis faced in our industry”.
Mr Beckett said: “It’s unsurprising that Alex Cruz has suddenly left British Airways. The handling of industrial relations through this crisis has been unnecessarily confrontational and at times heartless.
“The harsh reality is that BA’s fire and rehire policy, exposed by Unite, caused untold and unnecessary misery to thousands of loyal employees. These brutal industrial practices have seen the reputation of BA damaged on an international scale.
“We hope that the incoming CEO Sean Doyle will begin a new chapter of constructive relations with staff and unions, repair the reputation of the airline and boost the morale of staff. Unite stands ready to work with the new CEO.
“At this moment of crisis, it is vitally important there is complete transparency on the terms on which Mr Cruz will be leaving British Airways and that these are the same as the thousands of staff who have left through redundancy.”
Outgoing CEO Alex Cruz faced intense criticism from MPs and trade unions over controversial plans to axe 12,000 jobs at BA due to the dramatic fall in international travel, with threats to fire and rehire remaining staff on lesser terms. The Commons transport has described the airline’s treatment of employees as a “national disgrace”.
The former head of British Airways also came under attack last year for a dispute with pilots and cost-cutting measures that included replacing free in-flight meals with paid-for menus on short-haul flights.
Unite national officer for civil aviation Oliver Richardson echoed Howard Beckett’s calls for a fresh start in relations, but warned that there is still uncertainty for many BA workers. He said: “Although this change clearly represents a new chapter for British Airways, there is still uncertainty and the continuing threat of ‘fire and rehire’ hanging over a number of BA employees.
“These threats should be removed in order to allow for a constructive approach to the challenges faced to be found.”
Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots’ union Balpa, said: “I hope this heralds a new dawn which sees BA behaving like the proud flag carrier airline it should be.
“Mr Cruz has been in the departure lounge for some time. He was given a remit to cut costs and found it impossible to do that without alienating BA passengers and employees alike.”
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