Photo: Clément Alloing

LONDON – British Airways (BA) has threatened up to 19,000 staff with potential dismissal notices unless they accept worse pay and conditions.

The carrier has been burning heavy amounts of money every day due to most of its fleet being grounded and is now looking at ways to reduce costs.

April 28 saw the carrier send Section 188 letters to three unions representing nearly 35,500 of its staff members.

According to ITV News, the outlet has seen letters that reveal the plans for rehiring employees on new terms and conditions as well as a pay cut, the latter understood to be around 60%.

The outlet also stated that the airline will make up to 12,500 redundancies over this period anyway.

It is understood that the new contracts would also allow BA to suspend staff for up to six weeks per year without being paid.

In addition, the letter stated that BA is considering dismissing or terminating the contract of at least 19,358 staff if agreements cannot be reached.

The consultation period for initial job cuts announced earlier last month ends in the middle of this month.

Picture by: Stuart Bailey

Only one of the three major unions within BA, BALPA is currently in discussions with the carrier, with GMB and Unite unions not wanting to engage with a process they claims to be unlawful.

British Airways has commented on the topic, calling on the other unions to consult with the carrier on this process.

“We are acting now to protect as many jobs possible. The airline industry is facing the deepest structural change in its history, as well as facing a severely weakened global economy.”

“We call on Unite and GMB to consult with us on our proposals as our pilot union, BALPA, is doing. Working together we can protect more jobs as we prepare for a new future.”

Photo: Clement Alloing

Huw Merriman MP, the Chair of the Transport Committee in the UK has called this behavior “outrageous” especially as the MP notes carrier has taken advantage of the Job Retention Scheme which placed around 22,000 staff on paid furlough.

“British Airways tends to charge higher prices. They trade off their reputation as the national flag carrier. There’s a lot of patriotic pride and backing by this country, For BA, because of what it stands for and it doesn’t stand for ripping off its staff at this most uncertain and dangerous of times,” he told ITV.

It is understood that Merriman wants the UK government to pass legislation that would not allow companies that use this scheme to make staff redundant.

Heathrow, British Airways Heritage BEA livery on an Airbus A319, to celebrate BA centenary celebrations, March 2019.

This has come with a response from the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who said that he has been made aware of the issue and is looking at what the government can do regarding this.

The unions have been placed in a difficult position on this due to the fact that BA staff cannot strike because they have been furloughed.

This is the case in point of Merriman’s argument. The government will need to intervene in order to save much valued jobs to the UK aviation sector.