When British Airways announced it would be sacking 12,000 of its workers – despite being a wealthy company that can ride out the crisis and what’s more, there being ample government support to prevent such job losses – the nation looked on in horror.
Here was one of the UK’s premier airlines – one that trades on the name of Britain and its pride of country – betraying not only its workforce but all of us. When it was time for people and businesses to pull together and do their bit, British Airways failed in a big way and has used the current crisis as an excuse to cause needless suffering for tens of thousands of its loyal, hard-working staff.
Now, the airline is not only refusing to reverse its decision on jobs losses but it’s planning to sack and rehire more than 40,000 more workers on new contracts that will see their pay cut by an astonishing 70 per cent.
The airline is also refusing to negotiate with Unite. Later today (June 3), Parliament will debate job losses in the aviation industry after an Urgent Question was raised, with British Airways’ appalling behaviour set to be under the microscope.
The union has vowed to take a stand to protect its members and so has launched a new campaign to pressure British Airways to do the right thing. The campaign, launched in May, is already making big waves publicly, including gaining the endorsement of many celebrities.
Esteemed comedian, actor and writer Stephen Fry was among the first to chime in.
I’ve been asked to post this: I can’t know every detail but it really does look as though British Airways’ board is using the pandemic as cover for some brutal behaviour… https://t.co/iUENeu977i— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) May 26, 2020
Actor Nina Wadia, known for her role in the soap EastEnders, also took to social media to air her disgust with British Airways.
Is this a joke?! Disgraceful behaviour. Respect your staff, they work very hard and are amongst the best in the business. https://t.co/lWyiO2l6Ay
— Nina Wadia (@Nina_Wadia) May 26, 2020
As did presenter and broadcaster Jeremy Vine, who highlighted that he personally knows many BA cabin crew.
I’ve got friends who work as BA cabin crew. I’m seeing a lot of this online at the moment and am concerned for them. https://t.co/Mt0QFrwn4Z
— Jeremy Vine (@theJeremyVine) May 26, 2020
BAFTA award-winning actor Thandie Newton called on her Twitter followers to sign Unite’s petition.
— Thandie Newton OBE (@thandienewton) May 3, 2020
Meanwhile politicians, such as Labour MP and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, also endorsed the campaign. McDonnell shared images of a message to BA that was last week projected onto big landmarks in London.
Many of my constituents, who are British Airways employees, share this view projected onto landmark buildings today that they have been betrayed by this company. I share that opinion. pic.twitter.com/DpOM6akOlt
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) May 26, 2020
Most recently, presenter Piers Morgan has also lent his support to the campaign.
I’m disgusted by the way @British_Airways is treating its staff. Just outrageous to make the whole 43,000-strong workforce redundant then rehire some back on massively reduced salaries. Shame on you, BA – these people made you a great airline, now you’re trashing them & it. pic.twitter.com/ZhtXo5jBOO— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) May 31, 2020
When the campaign first launched, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey explained the motivation behind Unite’s campaign.
“Unite has tried to engage constructively with British Airways,” he said. “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?
“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.”
You can find out all about Unite’s British Airways campaign and how you can take part on our website here.
By Hajera Blagg