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British Airways Marches On With Its Staff And Cost Reduction Plans
After reaching a deal with its pilots securing a 20% pay cut during the COVID-19 crisis, an 8% average pay reduction in the long-term and 270 redundancies, British Airways is pushing ahead with its plan to change the terms and conditions for more than 10,000 among cabin crew, engineers and airport staff.
The airline has issued redundancy letters for approximately 10,700 employees, 6,000 of which will be voluntary redundancies with 4,000 being “forced out,” according to Unite, one of British Airways workers’ union. “This is a very bleak day for the incredible BA workforce,” said Howard Beckett, assistant general secretary at Unite, to Sky News, “And will go down in the history of the airline as the day that it put the interests of the boardroom ahead of its passengers and workforce.”
Employees are not waiting to see whether their position will survive this round of cuts or not, and it is expected that all those who will be allowed to remain at British Airways will have to accept a new contract with significantly worse terms and conditions. Last April the carrier threatened its workforce that if an agreement could not be reached to change the current conditions of employment, all employees would be fired and re-hired under a new contract.
The unprecedented crisis that is rocking the aviation industry amidst the collapse in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic is allowing airlines to take extraordinary measures to survive, and British Airways seems to be determined to take this opportunity to reduce its staff costs.
Employees that were hired after 2010 have substantially lower pay and benefits than those who have been with the company more than 10 years ago. Cabin crew that will be moved from the old contract to the new one would lose 20% of their base pay, but due to lower allowances and extras they could see their take-home pay reduced up to 50%, BBC News reports. Newer hires, on the other hand, will experience a modest raise in salary.
Unite and GMB, the unions representing British Airways’ employees, are currently not engaging in negotiations with the top management as most of the workers targeted for redundancy are those who have been with the company the longest and therefore represent the most onerous contracts for the company.
According to U.K. law, employees that are being made redundant involuntarily are entitled to a maximum of one and a half week’s pay for each full year of service, with length of service capped at 20 years. However, for cabin crew this would represent only 2-3 months’ of salary since base pay constitutes less than half their overall salary.
This very aggressive strategy by British Airways is however being investigated by the Government. In June a report on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation sector had some Members of Parliament condemn the behavior of British Airways towards its employees and the CEO Alex Cruz will speak about this and other topics in front of the Transport Select Committee on Sept. 16.
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