30 Apr

Unite Member Update – (COVID-19) – British Airways – 2nd April

British Airways have already announced a vast reduction in its operation. It will last for at least the next two months. Only a skeleton service will continue to operate.

On the 17th March, British Airways issued a legal, at risk of redundancy notice covering all staff.

Unite, BALPA and GMB had 45 days to secure agreement to reduce or mitigate job losses. After intense and fraught negotiations, we have reached a temporary agreement to do exactly that. 

Our priorities from the start were simple; reaching an agreement was not.

All of the areas represented by Unite joined together and agreed our priorities.

  • The protection of jobs 
  • The protection of terms and conditions
  • Any necessary cuts must be on a temporary basis
  • All areas would share an equal and proportionate burden of the measures needed
  • Those staff with contractual lay-off clauses would not be treated differently

That we have been successful in achieving all of those aims within a Redundancy Mitigation Programme does not make this a good news story. It is obvious that globally the airline industry is on the verge of collapse, from operators to ground handlers, and that many companies will simply go out of business. 

Our task was to ensure that this does not happen at British Airways; it was imperative to reach a deal that ensured the airline survives so that people will have a job, hopefully the same job on the same terms and conditions, to return to when this crisis passes. Last but not least, we wanted to ensure that those within the airline industry who would seek to take advantage of the situation for commercial advantage would be prevented from doing so.

We have agreed a temporary Redundancy Mitigation Programme whilst the airline all but shuts down. Your job is protected, your terms and conditions are unchanged, it is temporary and everyone is treated equally. 

However, this is not without cost and the price for that job security is that all staff covered by this programme will receive 80% of basic pay and 80% of Shift pay, CFP and EHR for April and May. 

Obviously, that is a big hit to everyone and so we have also secured an arrangement that both your own and BA’s pension contributions can be diverted into pay instead of your pension, hopefully minimising any reduction in take-home pay. Also, the diverted pension contributions will cover three months rather than two to help you cope.

BA has also agreed to suspend the HR1 redundancy notice. It is important to understand that this is not a voluntary severance programme as we have been used to, it is compulsory redundancy with associated legal minimum redundancy payments.

We urge you to read the proposal and vote as soon as possible. Pilots have already accepted 50% pay cuts across the same period with the situation so dire they opted not to give members a vote. Although we fully respect why they had to make such a difficult decision we have not followed that course and are asking you to decide. 

Unfortunately, there isn’t time for a long drawn out process, out of necessity it must carried out quickly and we strongly recommend accepting this offer. However, there will be no “selling” of this proposal, just a simple choice for you to make.

Nobody wants to do this, it’s not good news for anyone but we have worked very, very hard to minimise the bad news for you and to maintain our five principles in the most difficult circumstances we have ever known. Because we know how far we have come, we know that this is unquestionably the best that can be achieved. If any area wishes to reject the offer, the company have been clear there will be no further improvement for any area and we have secured legal clauses within this programme to ensure that this is the case.

The statutory notice continues unless paused by this agreement and on 1st May, BA could legally begin to make people redundant or ‘lay off’ members with such clauses in their contract. It is possible they may not do so but we are simply not prepared to gamble with anyone’s job and take that risk and this is why we have reached this agreement.  

That’s not designed to cause you worry or concern but is simply the reality of the situation and the incredibly hard choice that workers across the country are having to face. 

We will of course be providing full details of the agreement and an accompanying Q&A, as soon as we possibly can, as well as outlining arrangements for the ballot for each area. 

Finally, we’d like to thank you the members for your patience, particularly when sensationalised stories are leaked to the press.  

We are here to answer your questions, but it is relatively simple and hopefully self-explanatory, accepting or rejecting is of course not an easy choice to make but as always as a Unite member, it is your choice to make.


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