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British Airways staff primed to strike, says union

written by Hannah Dowling | July 29, 2020

British Airways CEO Álex Cruz (British Airways)

UK trade union Unite has warned British Airways of an immediate strike over plans to “fire and rehire” up to 12,000 staff on poorer terms.

The head of Unite has warned British Airways that staff intend to push ahead with industrial action against the major airline “with immediate effect”, over plans to cut up to 12,000 jobs.

Unite and British Airways have been in a deadlock on dealings since the airline announced in April that it intends to cut up to 12,000 jobs across its network.

The union has now criticised the airline for its intention to “fire and rehire” thousands of staff on poorer terms, including pay cuts, and changes to terms and conditions.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey accused British Airways’ chief executive Álex Cruz of “arrogance” in his dealings with the union, and said, “You have now published a timetable to fire and rehire thousands of your workforce on 7 August.

“We will work every hour between now and then to convince you not to do so.

“You can take this letter as our commitment to do that. However, you can also take this as an intention to defend our members by moving towards industrial action with immediate effect.”

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British Airways has said that the COVID-19 pandemic, and resulting travel bans and immediate drop off in travel demand, “is the biggest challenge the airline and our industry has ever faced”.

“It is disappointing that a company doing everything it can to save jobs is being singled out by Unite for national criticism, when jobs are being lost across the country in every industry,” it said in a statement, in response to Unite’s letter.

According to the airline, the new contracts work to make British Airways more competitive with lower-cost airlines, and that some staff may even see a pay rise under the new arrangements.

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It noted that crew seeing pay cuts would see their basic pay drop by 20 per cent, although the fact that they also face losing shift pay means that pay drops of 40 per cent are also possible.

“If staff accept the changes to the way they work or their terms and conditions, we expect to be able to save more jobs,” the airline said.

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