Published on Saturday, June 13, 2020

MPs brand BA a 'national disgrace' over job cuts

MPs have branded British Airways a 'national disgrace' over its plans to lay off 12,000 staff during the pandemic crisis.

A report from a Transport Select Committee, published today, said: "The behaviour of British Airways and its parent company towards its employees is a national disgrace. It falls well below the standards we would expect from any employer, especially in light of the scale of taxpayer subsidy, at this time of national crisis."

The report said BA should 'extend its consultation period to allow meaningful consultation to take place as per its legal requirements, and without pre-conditions, so that all parties can consider the proposed staffing changes in the context of the Government's plans to help the aviation sector restart and recover'.

The report concludes BA's current consultation on 12,000 jobs losses and plans to renew the terms of other staff contracts is a 'calculated attempt to take advantage of the pandemic'.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the report is just the latest in a 'long and growing chorus of criticism, ranging from the chancellor and the aviation minister to public figures like Piers Morgan and Ricky Gervais'.

Critics have accused BA of misusing the furlough scheme and Bank of England loans to fund the business while it 'fires and rehires' its 42,000 workers.

Unite said calls are mounting for the Government to strip BA of some of its slots, particularly at Heathrow airport.

It condemned IAG for attacking UK jobs and pay while the terms for workers across the rest of the Europe-wide group are left intact.

It also argued that the dramatic cuts are planned while the group is pressing ahead with plans to buy Air Europa at a cost of one billion euros.

McCluskey said: "The transport committee's report pulls no punches and is absolutely correct to denounce BA's conduct in such unique and unequivocal terms.

"Outside of the BA boardroom bunker, it is hard to find one, single defender of the actions and supporter of the airline's plans. Once again, BA has shown that if there is a wrong way to go about things, then that is the reckless path that it will choose.

"The case the company makes for sacking 12,000 and trashing the wages of those who stay on the workforce is full of holes because it is a transparent effort to generate profits out of a crisis. BA is fooling nobody. The parent company easily has the cash and assets to weather this storm, and if it did not then it would not contemplate for one moment the one billion pound purchase of another airline.

"BA has infuriated MPs because it is using taxpayers' money and the chancellor's well-intentioned jobs retention scheme to keep cash in the business while destroying tens of thousands of UK jobs, ruining people's lives and destabilising the whole of UK aviation into the bargain.

"Never before has the country witnessed such wholesale mistreatment of a UK workforce and such brutal industrial thuggery. MPs are totally right to say that this must be stopped, and that if the company refuses to behave responsibly towards the workers and the nation that makes its profits, then it is correct that it loses its lucrative Heathrow slots to an airline that will invest in the people and businesses of this country.

"We welcome the committee's calls too for BA to set aside its weapon - its programme of mass sackings - so that proper discussions about an acceptable way out of this short-term crisis can be held."

BA issued a statement in response to the MPs report saying: "Mr Merriman (the committee chair) made clear several weeks ago that the Transport Select Committee's report would be 'fuelled by the kind and impassioned messages' he received, rather than the facts. The facts are clear. The Government has no plans to help the sector restart and recover as evidenced by the introduction of the 14-day quarantine regulation.

"We find ourselves in the deepest crisis ever faced by the airline industry. A crisis not of our making but one which we must address. We will do everything in our power to ensure that British Airways can survive and sustain the maximum number of jobs consistent with the new reality of a changed airline industry in a severely weakened global economy."

Unite is calling on the Government to provide investment and support for the aviation sector, which has been one of the worst affected by the pandemic.

Alongside BA's cuts, Virgin has just laid off more than 3,000 people  (one third of its workforce), easyJet is cutting around 4,500 jobs, (30% of its workforce) and Ryanair is looking to shed around 3,000 jobs (15% of its workforce).

The Transport Committee's report urges aviation businesses not to proceed hastily with large scale redundancies or renewing terms and conditions of employment until the furlough scheme ends in October and before they have the chance to consider the Government's plans to help the sector restart.

Meanwhile, Ryanair and easyJet have joined together to take legal action against the Government's quarantine, saying it is causing further devastation for the industry.




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