22 Mar

Message from Howard Beckett – Unite Assistant General Secretary

Dear Unite Member,

This situation is no one’s fault, no one can be blamed, it is neither the fault of government, nor business but most importantly it is not the fault of workers. If confirmation were need of that, then a trade union positively referencing the actions of a Conservative Minister, is confirmation that we must simply all do what is needed to get through this. 

Not just with fine words but in our actions, and although we in Unite want the Chancellor to go further to protect the self-employed and those on zero hour contracts, the Chancellor must be congratulated for a proactive approach to help employees and it is that proactive approach that Unite has adopted across industry but specifically in the aviation industry. 

Our first task is to preserve British Airways, for everyone. For you, for customers and for those who have invested in it. It is clear that cannot be achieved by any one of those elements acting alone; we must all work together if the airline is to survive.

Our actions will define a generation. Be assured that we are working with BA day and night, to ensure that history will view any decisions taken as both positive, but also necessary. 

With the recently announced government help for employers, there is no reason that a way through this crisis cannot be found, one where BA can proudly say to the world that they are being honest and respectful to their staff, not solely as employees but as fellow human beings. 

History shows us that all things must pass and aviation will return to pre corona levels.  Our joint task is not only to ensure that British Airways remains intact to take advantage of that upswing when it comes but equally that our members’ jobs, terms and conditions are also intact.

This is a time for pulling together. If difficult sacrifices must be made, we will make them, but they must be fair, equal and above all proportionate. That is why Unite’s message to all employers in all sectors is the same, this is not a time for commercial opportunism, nor is it a time for companies to take the opportunity to seek to drive through long held restructuring ambitions, to drive down cost. That is the balance we seek – but also a balance that thus far has been elusive.  

The Chancellors announcement on Friday was a reflection of our successful lobbying of Government. As many of you will know Unite has publicly been asking companies such as British Airways to work with us, to join us in lobbying Government for packages to project employees. We were pleased the CBI joined with the TUC to lobby Government but nonetheless we will continue to call on companies such as British Airways to also commit to work with us openly when we seek to ask the Government to show empathy for the plight of thousands of workers. Any Government assistance must then be both acknowledged and become a central part of the discussion around what workplace measures are needed. The assistance must never be simply banked and further cuts pursued from greed rather than need. 

Unite will continue to negotiate and offer solutions to British Airways, but the protection of jobs and employment conditions must remain central to any such discussion. 

As this truly is the moment that defines us, then ourselves and British Airways must join together in embracing Friday’s announcement and seek to be remembered for our “acts of kindness to one another” and in doing so reject the defining image of the shopper with a supermarket trolley packed to the brim with toilet rolls, amidst the empty shelves. 

We will update you of our progress as soon as we possibly can, in the meantime thank you for your patience and understanding.

Sincerely.

Howard Beckett

Howard Beckett
Unite Assistant General Secretary

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