Trade union officials have accused British Airways bosses of having a “hidden agenda” as the airline prepares to make up to 12,000 workers redundant amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Sky News has seen a letter from Unite, one of the unions representing thousands of BA staff, which said the company was effectively preparing to sack its entire workforce before re-employing many of them on “vastly reduced terms and conditions”.
The allegation from Unite underlines the labour relations crisis now facing the UK flag-carrier, with BALPA, the pilots’ union, arguing that BA had not made a substantive case for the cuts.
One source said BA’s handling of the process could trigger legal action.
The airline has risked further anger from BA employees over the proposals that could lead to more than a quarter of its 43,000 employees redundant by signalling that it will offer only statutory redundancy terms to those affected.
Roughly 4,000 of its Heathrow-based staff are expected to lose their jobs, with half of BA’s supervisors at the airport facing the axe.
On Thursday, Sky News’ business reporter, Scott Beasley, revealed that the redundancy proposals would also lead to more than 25% of BA pilots being made jobless, sparking a furious response from BALPA.
Unite said in its letter that BA’s consultation notice “spells out in clear language, not only the number of redundancies but also the hidden agenda: that all those not being made permanently redundant would effectively be dismissed and those deemed suitable are to be reemployed via different contracts and on vastly reduced terms and conditions”.
BA said last month that it would furlough more than 20,000 staff, taking money from the government to subsidise the wages of workers who would otherwise be made redundant.
Unite complained that the airline had “availed itself of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, ostensibly to avoid making staff redundant.
“But they have not honoured that commitment or the spirit for which it was intended.
“In fact, it would appear that BA has simply sought to take advantage of staff being furloughed and dismiss them in their absence.
“Unite believes this to be wrong, both legally and morally, and intend to challenge BA on both fronts, with every resource available to us.”
BA could not be reached for comment.