‘Drop opportunistic ‘fire and rehire’ plans’ urges Unite

BA’s short-termism causing havoc in UK aviation

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Despite its’ actions and plans to sack 12,000 staff and to cut the wages of a further 30,000 workers being roundly condemned by Unite, the public, the Labour Party, and more besides, British Airways still shows no attempt to resolve this move that could well destroy the employment standards and opportunities for thousands of workers and their families.


In a recent Parliamentary PMQs debate (July 15) Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer raised the plight of British Airways’ workers, and called on the prime minister to act – by withdrawing valuable landing slots from BA until they agree to reverse their plans.


“I want to press the Prime Minister further on the situation at BA – a huge employer and the national flag carrier,” Starmer said at PMQs. “Alongside the 12,000 redundancies already announced, BA is trying to force through the rehiring of the remaining 30,000 workers on worse terms and conditions. That’s totally unacceptable and it’s a warning shot to millions of other working people.”


PM Boris Johnson refused to commit to revising British Airways’ landing slots, saying, “We cannot I’m afraid Mr Speaker simply with a magic wand ensure that every single job that was being done before the crisis is retained after the crisis.”


The government has still so far failed to commit to any action against British Airways, despite a poll of over 2,000 people, including over 1,219 BA passengers across the UK, revealing that 69 per cent of all those surveyed believed the government should review the UK’s current arrangements on landing slots (versus just 16 per cent saying the government should not) with 76 per cent of Conservative voters backing a review.


Unite has accused BA of using a global health pandemic as cover to impose its’ long-term ‘fire and rehire’ plans. According to the Survation poll, a huge 70 per cent of those polled believe BA is wrong to terminate staff and re-employ them on reduced terms and conditions in the middle of a health crisis.


Responding to British Airways’ quarterly results issued today (Friday July 31), Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has urged the company to step back from its opportunistic ‘fire and rehire’ plans which could send thousands of dedicated employees to the dole queue.


“There can be no doubt that this crisis is having a profound impact on the aviation sector,” commented Len McCluskey.


“But as Willie Walsh himself reveals today, there is clear light at the end of this tunnel with BA looking to recover gradually starting now with full health restored in around two to three years. 


‘No need for drastic action’

“Given this, we say again to Mr Walsh that there is evidently no need to embark on this drastic course of fire and rehire, ripping up the contracts of 42,000 workers, raiding the wages of staff, and sending 12,000 loyal workers to the dole queue.


McCluskey continued with the key point that, “No other employer in the aviation sector is pursuing this course of industrial vandalism.  Competitor airlines are taking a responsible longer-term view, bringing their workforces with them through short-term wage cuts with pledge to return wages to pre-Covid levels at the earliest opportunity. 


“BA is fortunate. Its parent company can afford to make better choices. It has billions in the bank and even plans to expand by purchasing another airline, Air Europa, which is hardly the act of a business on its knees.


“It has also chosen not to attack the workforces of the other airlines in its group such as Iberia and Aer Lingus.  We cannot therefore see its assault on the workers of BA as anything other than a deliberate and opportunistic decision to reshape the airline for the financial benefit of the boardroom.”



“IAG has to accept that its decisions have consequences. Slashing its UK workforce by 30 per cent when there are alternative routes open to the company is not consistent with its responsibilities as the national carrier, which is why it is only correct that over 170 MPs are saying that BA cannot hang onto lucrative slots at Heathrow and elsewhere. Slots should go to those airlines dedicated to investing and growing in this country.”


Unite is emphatic in its call – this needless action cannot happen.


“Again, we urge BA and Willie Walsh to step back from this needless and destructive course of action,” McCluskey insists. 


“This airline has built its phenomenal wealth and power on the hard work and dedication of its staff and the loyalty of its customers.  Willie Walsh and Alex Cruz are trashing both along with a once great airline, causing havoc right across the aviation sector.  This is irresponsible and unnecessary and Unite will do all we can to prevent it.”


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Compiled by Amanda Campbell @amanda_unite 

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