Unite has called for a ‘new chapter of constructive relations with staff and unions’ at British Airways after it was announced today (October 12) that CEO Alex Cruz would be immediately replaced by Aer Lingus boss Sean Doyle.
Cruz, who has been British Airways’ chief since 2016, will stay on as a non-executive chairman for an interim period before Doyle also takes on this post.
Cruz has overseen British Airways at a time when staff have lost complete trust in management, after pushing forward with 13,000 job cuts and attempting to railroad through a ‘fire-and-rehire’ policy which would see the rest of the airline’s workforce being forced to accept massive pay cuts and worse terms and conditions.
Cruz was roundly criticised by Unite, MPs and the public for the airline’s fire-and-rehire policy, and while some progress has been made in negotiations with unions, with Cruz partially rowing back on the airline’s plans, the fire-and-rehire threat still hangs over the workforce.
Last month, Cruz appeared before the transport select committee, where Unite accused the former BA boss of misleading MPs by indicating that fire and rehire was completely off the table when it was in fact only a partial U-turn.
Commenting on Cruz’s departure, Unite assistant general secretary Howard 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,” he added. “These brutal industrial practices has seen the reputation of BA damaged on an international scale.
“It is only because of the dedicated work of Unite and in particular our shop stewards that widespread industrial action has been avoided so far.
“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,” Beckett continued. “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.”
Unite national officer for civil aviation Oliver Richardson warned that fire and rehire was still on the table.
“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,” he said. “These threats should be removed in order to allow for a constructive approach to the challenges faced to be found.”
By Hajera Blagg