British Airways, currently unchecked by the British Government, is having its cake and eating it too.

The airline benefited from the UK job retention scheme, enjoyed nine figure loans from the government bailout fund – despite a cash rich position – and with all that support, the airline is playing hardball with it’s own people, threatening livelihoods across the UK.

It’s hard times for all airlines and reductions are inevitable in every corner of the aviation globe, but the latest moves of aggression show deeper, longer held desires than those brought on by needs from a global pandemic. More notably: it shows British Airways is making moves not out of necessity, but out of desire, all while enjoying funds meant to better the British public.

Over the last few weeks, news emerged that British Airways planned to layoff all cabin crew, and those who were invited to rejoin would only be able to do so with a new contract, at an average 60% of previous wage.

Basically, some 12,000 job reductions are expected, which may or may not be necessary to survive in the interim period of diminished demand, but those who do stay would be required to accept new and inferior terms. Now, it’s British Airways pilots turn.

The move was wildly unpopular even among the most loyal of BA staff and lead to calls from Parliament for potentially revoking some Heathrow slots from British Airways, since the vast majority were gifts from the UK government during its days as a flag carrier, before becoming a private entity. BA’s Parent company IAG is so bullish, it’s even threatening to sue the UK government over quarantine plans, in what may be the only positive move of the last few months.

Seeing the government posturing and union moves as nothing more than threats, British Airways has now turned its sights on pilot contracts, employing a similar approach to employment wishes in other departments, namely reductions.

Pilots union members were informed that if the group does not accept 100% of the terms offered by British Airways, the airline plans to fire the entire workforce, rehiring the limited number of pilots it needs on lower wages and inferior contracts, much the same as it plans to do with cabin crew. Some crew members would experience up to a 60% reduction in pay, while being demanded to carry out more work.

BA’s intention to seek changes to terms and conditions is restated in the updated S188. However, crucially it states that if BA and BALPA are unable to reach an agreement, the company would seek to force changes by terminating the employment of all pilots and offering individuals new contracts
with associated new terms and conditions. We cannot begin to describe the level of disappointment and annoyance this has caused.

You can view the full official communication here: BACC Update Newsletter 6th June 2020

With headwinds of up to three years of diminished demand on the horizon, virtually all airlines are seeking to reduce headcount and limit costs, but no airline has gone as far as British Airways in seeking not only to reduce head count, but terminate all to force weaker terms for staff.

LONDON, UK - August 10th, 2018: view of Heathrow airport with stormy skies and British Airways airplanes at their standsThe fire/rehire move has also been extended to those in British Airways engineering bases, where threats of closing the base entirely are on the table, if weaker terms are not accepted. One could say any private company should not be limited in what they can, or cannot offer to employees, but it doesn’t mean the employees must take what’s offered, or that those on the outside should support the business, if moves become too sinister.

For many hearts and minds, even those of some ruthless customers, an equilibrium has been passed. It appears BA stepped over a line, and rather than tip toe back, is running head first to the other side.

With so few jobs going around in aviation, British Airways is banking on people crossing the picket line to remain solvent, knowing they have the upper hand in the negotiation. It’s all talk and games until it comes time to pay the mortgage. Receiving 60% of a previous salary could be better than nothing, but if the ferocious nature in which BA goes after employees from all elements of the business happens to unify the workforce, it could all backfire tremendously. 

For now, it’s hard to support a business which is using a pandemic to not only make necessary cuts to survive, but to settle old scores in a time people need employment and opportunity the most.

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