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The Unite union has accused British Airways of plans to “re-hire” most of its workforce on less favourable terms and conditions.
The airline, which is owned by International Airlines Group, announced last month that it was in consultation to make around 12,000 staff redundant.
However, Unite and GMB have been accused of failing to attend consultation meetings to discuss plans. Pilots’ union Balpa has been the only union to engage, according to a letter sent to staff on Friday by BA chief executive Alex Cruz.
In the letter he wrote: “Consultation is so important, and productive conversations are already being held with Balpa. I am sorry that neither Unite nor GMB have attended any of the daily meetings they are invited to so that they can provide ideas and input into any of the other proposed changes, and maximise the number of jobs saved.”
Unite and GMB said they were unable to negotiate with the airline on the redundancies while thousands of workers are on furlough, and because social distancing rules meant large group meetings were not possible.
Now the unions claim that BA will fire the vast majority of its workforce and rehire them on reduced pay and worse terms.
Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey said: “We cannot tolerate BA using this crisis as cover to impose a long-term plan to slash jobs, pay and conditions.
“No other employer has threatened to effectively fire and rehire its entire workforce. Over 40,000 loyal BA staff now face the prospect of losing either their livelihoods or potentially being re-interviewed for their own jobs on vastly reduced terms and conditions.
“If the proposals were about dealing with the Covid crisis, why is the company threatening to terminate contracts, including eliminating disciplinary procedures? This will not help the company get through Covid-19. This is nothing more than a cynical act of corporate greed and a betrayal of the BA workforce and Britain.”
McCluskey has written to IAG to demand it withdraws its Section 188 notice – the notice that triggers a collective redundancy consultation period, which is thought to end mid-June for BA employees – and allows more time for meaningful negotiations.
A BA spokesperson said the company was acting to “protect as many jobs as possible”.
“The airline industry is facing the deepest structural change in its history, as well as facing a severely weakened global economy. We are committed to consulting openly with our unions and our people as we prepare for a new future.”
Another employer – Auto Windscreens – has also come under fire for imposing a unilateral 20% pay cut on staff, even though not every employee agreed to the variation in terms.
The Guardian reports that the company had asked staff who are not on furlough to take the temporary pay cut in early April and give up sick pay, and 97% of employees agreed.
But while Auto Windscreens’ owner Markerstudy Group told employees that any refusal of the proposals would be dealt with individually, pay has been cut for all employees backdated to 1 April.
A spokesperson told the newspaper: “In order to try and preserve as many jobs as possible, [the company] took the difficult decision to ask staff to agree to a variation to some of their terms and conditions.
“The group received overwhelming support from almost 98% of staff who have appreciated the need for this in order to attempt to secure the group’s continued viability. Markerstudy has worked with staff to try and minimise, insofar as possible, the significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic on every area of their business.”
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