Unite’s Howard Beckett slams “cynical” and “opportunistic” BA for cutting staff wages during coronavirus pandemic

Unite’s Howard Beckett slams “cynical” and “opportunistic” BA for cutting staff wages during coronavirus pandemic

- in Unite
BA aeroplane taking off

Unite’s assistant general secretary has accused British Airways of “abusing” the government’s Job Retention Scheme, describing it as a “complete betrayal of workers”.

Senior cabin crew workers at British Airways are facing a 55% pay cut, with salaries slashed to £24,000, in yet another blow to the beleaguered airline industry.

Airline bosses have written to employees to outline their potential new salaries, and have announced that they are currently consulting with unions regarding possible job cuts with as many as 4,700 jobs at risk.

The news comes as nearly 50,000 British Airways customers are still waiting for refunds despite BA suspending most commercial flights in March.

As the airline struggles to stay afloat amid the current strict travel restrictions, crew numbers could be almost halved from 1,860 to 971 and main crew numbers risk being reduced from 12,402 to 8,591.

Reacting to the news, Unite’s assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said:

British Airways are cynically and opportunistically using the coronavirus pandemic to make swathes of workers redundant while simultaneously slashing the terms and conditions of the staff who remain. The cuts in pay are between 55-75% for thousands of crew.

We believe that this is not only potentially unlawful, but a complete abuse of the government Job Retention Scheme which was put in place to protect employees.

This is a complete betrayal of workers who have dedicated their lives to making the company the success it is today, who have helped build the huge cash reserves that enable BA to weather the current aviation crisis caused by Covid-19.

Also reacting to the news, the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) said that the UK aviation sector is in a “death spiral” and suggested the industry is not receiving enough help from the government.

BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said:

Pilots in UK airlines have already taken pay cuts of up to 70% while planes have been grounded and have now been slammed with job losses and opportunistic grabs at their terms and conditions.

U.K. Aviation is in a death spiral and while other countries are helping out their airlines the U.K. Government is actually making things worse.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG, has also confirmed that 12,000 job cuts at the airline are still due to go ahead despite the government extending the furlough scheme until the end of October.

Mr Walsh told MPs last week, prior to the chancellor Rishi Sunak announcing the furlough scheme extension, that the timing of the decision regarding job cuts was due to the UK’s labour laws which mean staff must be given a 45-day consultation period ahead of any redundancies.

He wrote:

I was pleased to see the announcement by the Chancellor that the CJRS (furlough scheme) is being extended.

We commend the Chancellor for his decision and applaud his efforts to breathe some life into a dying economy.

His actions will provide some additional relief to our people and our business.

However, we must act now to secure the maximum number of jobs possible, consistent with the reality of a structurally changed airline industry in a severely weakened global economy.

I want to confirm therefore that we will not pause our consultations or put our plans on hold.

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