Unite launched a major UK wide campaign on Friday May 22 against British Airways’ (BA) opportunistic plans to use the Covid-19 pandemic to betray thousands of staff and the public.
The company has served BA workers with a Section 188 notice – which effectively sacks 42,000 workers – only to bring them back on considerably worse terms and conditions. The measure will also cut up to 12,000 staff.
Unite believes BA has ‘betrayed’ workers and Britain itself. BA’s parent company, IAG, is not in any threat of insolvency. It sits on assets and reserves that could see it through this crisis without the need for permanent cuts or redundancies.
The company pays dividends to shareholders in the billions – while, as Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said in a letter to the firm, entitled ‘Using Covid-19 for corporate gain’ – “sitting on a cash pile, assets and reserves that could see you through this crisis without the need for permanent cuts or redundancies.”
McCluskey’s letter continues, “Your operational management has made catastrophic errors, most noticeably the utter mismanagement of the oil hedge that cost the company more than it will recoup through many thousands of redundancies.”
Unite campaign projection on to Marble Arch
British Airways has also fully accessed taxpayers’ money by taking advantage of the government’s Job Retention Scheme – a point also referenced in the letter. “You take public money from the British taxpayer to safeguard jobs but instead give notice of your intention to slash them while cynically using the British flag to drive sales. In simple terms, you are betraying both Britain and your own workforce,” adds Len McCluskey.
The Unite general secretary wrote to members of the board of IAG, copied to Willie Walsh, IAG CEO, and Luis Gallego Martín, chairman and CEO of Iberia.
In the letter Len McCluskey writes, “I have no option but to do all I can to protect my members and shine a light on your betrayal of Britain and your cynical use of this crisis as cover for your corporate greed.
“In the first stages, I have authorised a multifaceted campaign in defence of our members.
“This as you may know means that we will ensure that the public, customers, businesses and all other stakeholders, will be made aware of your deplorable actions and the detail of how you as a company have acted in this crisis. All interested parties will be engaged by all and any means possible and I am sure that many will make decisions in light of your actions.”
While NHS workers have been saving lives and many BA staff have been volunteering to help during the current health crisis, British Airways management has used the time to dust off an old plan to strip terms and conditions from BA workers.
Unite campaign projection at Heathrow
“Unite has tried to engage constructively with British Airways. If BA are not trying to use this crisis for corporate gain, then why has the company not agreed to come to the table to seek temporary measures until revenue returns?” asks McCluskey.
“BA’s plan to use the worst health crisis in a century to strip loyal workers of their terms and conditions is a betrayal of workers and of Britain.
“We are launching a major public campaign to alert BA’s customers, shareholders and partners both in Britain and internationally, of the severe and permanent damage being done at a time of national crisis.”
He concludes, “If you were honestly looking to resolve the temporary issues related to Covid-19 the following demands would be straightforward for you to agree; remove your Section 188 notice; negotiate in good faith with my Union; agree for any proposed changes to pay, terms and conditions to be temporary and to be returned in line with increased revenue.
“I hope that you can finally step away from the precipice and think again.”
Unite campaign projection onto the Houses of Parliament
Twitter: @BABetrayal, Facebook: Facebook.com/BAbetrayal
Compiled by Amanda Campbell @amanda_unite
Pics by Mark Thomas