British Airways workers and their supporters were delighted to see prime minister Boris Johnson today (July 15) grilled by Labour leader Keir Starmer over the airline’s appalling fire and rehire plans, which would mean 30,000 workers will see their pay and conditions torn to shreds, while another 12,000 are to be permanently sacked.
As Unite has ramped up its #BABetrayal campaign, Starmer today (July 15) 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.”
Starmer highlighted an email the prime minister had sent to BA staff on June 2, in which he told them that he had “made it clear that firms should not be using furlough to cynically keep people on their books and then remove them or change their terms and conditions”.
“It’s now six weeks on,” the Labour leader highlighted. “Will the Prime Minister now personally intervene and make clear that actions by those at BA cannot be allowed to stand without consequences for landing slots?”
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.”
But Starmer then slammed Johnson’s indifference, noting in response, “The Prime Minister knows exactly what I’m talking about — it’s the rehiring of 30,000 people at BA on worse terms and conditions and he should call it out.”
While the government has so far failed to commit to any action against British Airways, today’s PMQs exchange has significantly ramped up the pressure and was hailed by Unite, MPs and British Airways workers and supporters themselves, who took to social media to applaud the Labour leader.
Labour MP Jim McMahon welcomed today’s PMQs:
— Jim McMahon MP (@JimfromOldham) July 15, 2020
As did Labour MP Ruth Cadbury:
12K staff are facing redundancies & those who remain are facing sweeping cuts to their terms, conditions and pay.
— Ruth Cadbury MP (@RuthCadbury) July 15, 2020
Meanwhile, BA staff and supporters chimed in to thank Kier Starmer for his support:
What is it with PMs who resort to magical metaphors to defend their refusal to intervene to save jobs? @BorisJohnson you’re not being asked by @Keir_Starmer to ‘wave a magic wand’, you’re being asked to call out BA’s attempts to #fireandrehire 30k people. #BAbetrayal #PMQs pic.twitter.com/EZwUjVRrea
— Unite the union: join a union (@unitetheunion) July 15, 2020
.@Keir_Starmer Thank you for acknowledging what is going on at #BritishAirways the sacking of 42,000 staff and #fireandrehire of 30,000 on significantly less pay & t&cs
.@BorisJohnson This isn’t about just BA it is what will happen when other companies follow suit. #BAbetrayal https://t.co/yiE8YmP172
— Mr X (@MRXXXX1977) July 15, 2020
— SRR BL!TZ (@STTR1819) July 15, 2020
Thank you @Keir_Starmer for highlighting our fight for survival from being sacked by #BritishAirways https://t.co/MonpfYU6qy #Handbacktheslots #BAndits #BABetrayal @BorisJohnson when are you going to address the aviation industry?
— laraff15 (@laraff151) July 15, 2020
— Ruairimckendry (@ruairimckendry) July 15, 2020
Starmer’s intervention today (July 15) comes as Unite’s BA Betrayal campaign has piled on the political pressure after drawing up a pledge that more than 100 cross-party MPs have signed.
The pledge calls on the Prime Minister “to ensure that if British Airways continues to attack its own workforce and imposes drastic and unnecessary cuts, the Government will act and amend slot regulations to end the current form of allocation including ‘legacy’ or ‘grandfather’ rights”.
You can find out more about Unite’s BA Betrayal campaign and how you can get involved on our website here.
By Hajera Blagg