Willie Walsh defends British Airways over job cut plans

The chief executive of British Airways’ owner IAG has written a scathing response to a parliamentary committee that branded the carrier a “national disgrace” over moves to cut jobs and change terms and conditions for its workforce. 

Willie Walsh on Monday said that BA was in “full compliance with the law” with regard to redundancies, because it was “only proposing changes that it wishes to consult over” with trade unions.

“British Airways is mired in the deepest crisis the company has ever faced and is acting in a perfectly lawful manner,” Mr Walsh said in a letter to Huw Merriman, who heads the Commons transport select committee, adding that the company was “fighting for its survival”.

The select committee on Saturday singled out BA in a report on the impact of coronavirus on aviation, following weeks of animosity between the carrier and MPs. 

BA announced in April that it would cut up to 12,000 jobs, nearly 30 per cent of its workforce, as a result of the coronavirus crisis and the depleted passenger levels that it said could continue for several years.

“This wanton destruction of a loyal workforce cannot appear to go without sanction — by the government, parliamentarians or paying passengers who may choose differently in future,” said Mr Merriman. “We view it as a national disgrace.”

In his letter, Mr Walsh said Mr Merriman had made clear the report would be based on impassioned messages from BA employees “rather than the facts”.

The facts, he said, were clear and to the contrary: that BA had been unsupported by the government policy of 14-day quarantine, and employees had been “betrayed” by trade union leaders who had refused to engage in consultations.

“The truth is, indeed, rarely pure and never simple,” he said. “British Airways is fighting for its survival in the face of overwhelming and unprecedented challenges while respecting the fundamental British value of the rule of law.”

Unite, the union representing some of BA employees, on Saturday voiced its support for the select committee report.

“Outside of the BA boardroom bunker, it is hard to find one, single defender of the actions and supporter of the airline’s plans,” said Len McCluskey, general secretary of the union.

“Once again, BA has shown that if there is a wrong way to go about things, then that is the reckless path that it will choose.”

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