More than 6,000 British Airways staff have accepted voluntary redundancy as the airline moves to tell thousands more cabin crew and ground staff whether or not they will keep their jobs or face pay cuts.
The airline, which is seeking to make up to 12,000 job cuts to slash costs as the coronavirus pandemic hammers the travel market, was on Friday sending one of three letters to affected staff who have not taken voluntary redundancy.
Staff will be told they are either being made redundant, that they do have a role but will have to sign a new contract – most likely with lower pay and worse terms and conditions – or that they will continue in the same role with the same contract.
Staff who are being made redundant will have the option of entering the airline’s priority return talent pool and will be fast-tracked into any new roles that become available.
Unions have condemned the plan, dubbing it “fire and rehire”, which they say is being used to push the 30,000 employees who will still have jobs on to downgraded terms and conditions. In June, MPs on the Commons transport select committee labelled British Airways “a national disgrace” for making a “calculated attempt to take advantage of the pandemic” to try to slash its staff terms and conditions.
Last week, BA’s parent company, IAG, which also owns Iberia and Aer Lingus, reported a record loss of €4.2bn (£3.8bn) in the first half of the year as passenger numbers fell by 98% in the second quarter. The group, which is raising €2.75bn to strengthen its balance sheet to weather the crisis, made a €1.1bn profit in the first half of last year.
“Our half-year results clearly show the enormous financial impact of Covid-19 on our business,” a spokesman for British Airways said. “We are having to make difficult decisions and take every possible action now to protect as many jobs as possible. And, while we never could have anticipated being in a position of making redundancies, more than 6,000 of our colleagues have now indicated that they wish to take voluntary redundancy from BA.”
Unite, the trade union that represents thousands of BA employees, including cabin crew, engineers and maintenance staff, has warned of balloting for potential strike action over the plans.