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U.K parliamentarians says British Airways “a national disgrace” for trying to shed its staff and rehire them on new terms and conditions during the coronavirus crisis.
The Commons transport select committee report condemns behaviour of British Airways and its parent company towards its employees during a time of international crisis
In late April, British Airways wrote to trade unions about its plans to consult on a reduction of up to 12,000 jobs (out of a workforce of 42,000) and downgrade the terms and conditions of the bulk of its remaining employees.130 The consultation will end on 15 June.
In particular, the company is consulting on plans to:
– only meet its minimum statutory obligations on redundancy pay, arguing that enhanced voluntary redundancy is “prohibitively expensive” in the circumstances;131
– revise its employment procedures for remaining employees, including its disciplinary, grievance, absence and performance management procedures;132
– restructure its cabin crew into a single fleet, with a single set of pay, terms and conditions, including “temporary layoff or short-time arrangements” (British Airways cabin crew currently work on three different fleets, with the newest fleet on less favourable pay, terms and conditions); and alter “the rostering, scheduling and current operations environment” for its pilots.
In letters to Unite the Union on 28 April 2020, British Airways said that if the company was “unable to reach agreement on these proposals as part of the consultation process (and we were unable to implement these proposals by relying on the reasonable changes clause in an employee’s contract)” British Airways would propose “to give all employees notice of dismissal by reason of redundancy and/or some other substantial reason,” and then “offer a proportion of them employment under new terms and conditions.”
Unions have referred to this approach as “fire and rehire”. The same arrangements now apply to British Airways’ 4,300 pilots.
Unions have strongly objected to British Airways’ threat to “fire and rehire” staff and are reported to have made its removal a condition of their full engagement in the consultation process.
At the end of 2019 British Airways’ profit after tax was £1.1 billion. The company also had cash reserves of £2.6 billion and £5.8 billion in shareholder equity.
British Airways has received £300 million from the Bank of England, under the Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF).
In conclusion, MPs 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.”