01 May

Member Update – 1st May – What’s happening now?

Update – What’s happening now?
 
The decision by British Airways to simultaneously announce their redundancy plans, to the press and their own staff at exactly the same time, was a calculated decision. With the sole intention of shaping both the media coverage around the story and the context for any subsequent “consultation” over their plans. Specifically, to condition staff that there will be job losses and that those “lucky enough to keep their job”, should do so on reduced terms and conditions.
 
Given that we are in the middle of a National crisis, a Government led Job Retention Scheme and an agreed Redundancy Mitigation Programme, Unite has challenged both the legality and morality, of the announcement made by British Airways. Effectively making 12,000 staff redundant and to also make any remaining staff redundant, re-employing them on inferior pay, terms and conditions.
 
How and why are we doing this?
 
Unite have written to both HM Government and have reserved our right to refer BA’s furlough requests to HMRC, to question the legality of these actions and a potential misuse of public funds and will use all of the political contacts at our disposal to hold them to account.
 
Will this be successful? We don’t know. But we must at the very least try. The legislation around the Governments scheme is untested, as is the Governments intent and out of necessity we must be the first to do so before entering into discussions, where the outcome is unavoidably bleak for so many people.
 
These are difficult times, no one doubts that but BA’s actions go way beyond what is necessary and even the steps being taken by other airlines, amounting to little more than an obvious attempt to take advantage of a public health crisis, to drive through a wish list of change for greater future profit. 
 
If you have read all of BA’s letters to Unite and employees, setting out their proposals in each area, you may have observed one glaring omission. At no point in any letter, is there a single expression of gratitude or acknowledgement for the contribution made by staff in building a successful airline. An airline that declared a profit of £1.92 billion just a few short months ago, nor the vaguest apology, let alone empathy, for the devastating impact the measures they wish to introduce, will have upon thousands of families’ lives. 
 
Ironically, the IAG group has applied for and accepted a Government aid package (worth €1bn) from the Spanish Government for Iberia, and have honoured their redundancy mitigation agreement with their unions. Yet British Airways has refused to join with Unite to work with the UK Government in requesting similar aid, not because it is not available, but because their preferred option is that no UK airlines receive aid packages and thereby some will go out of business. 
 
BA alone survives, profits from their UK rivals demise but with the added bonus of a much lower cost base, generating even greater profit.
 
It’s no more complicated than that. 
 
This may well sound an attractive business model for shareholders and executive bonuses, the only flaw in the plan for you as an employee, is that you are paying the cost of them doing so with either your job or your terms and conditions 
 
Full details of the legal challenge, may be found here
Click to View Letter
There is also a lot more work on building our Unite campaign, which will involve political and industrial campaigns as well, and we’ll also keep you updated on these.
 
In the meantime, here are ten things BA ‘forgot” to mention in their press release but is contained within the detailed letters sent to Unite and published to you yesterday.

 1. BA intent to make 12000 staff redundant across the whole airline, with the figures for our areas outlined below:
2. British Airways have already stated that they intend to begin making remaining employees redundant from  the 15th June onwards and offer new inferior contracts to those they believe to be suitable.
 
3. Anyone made redundant will be forced to leave employment on statutory redundancy pay, rather than a severance package. This is often a third of the value of severance.
 
4. If you are deemed “suitable” to be re-employed, all your current pay, agreements, terms and conditions, and even the employment policies that cover you, will become null and void.  If you do not accept these changes, you will be immediately dismissed. 
 
5. BA have stated they will begin to do so 43 days from now.
 
6. Despite being part of the ongoing government funded Job Retention Scheme, BA have decided that they will not ‘retain’ staff during the operation of the scheme. Members will be made redundant on 15th June. Only some will be reemployed.
 
7. Iberia state aid is set to be €1bn, with the purchase of Air Europa still on track
 
8. BA has £3bn cash available and IAG has credit lines of €10.7bn
 
9. BA is one of the most capitalised airlines in Europe just after Ryanair and Wizz 
 
10. BA could survive for over a year with all of its fleet grounded 

Lastly, please find below a link to Unite’s General Secretary, Len McCluskey’s interview on the BBC 1 last night. 

As always, thank you for your support. It may feel like the darkest hour, but be assured that your union is with you and will remain with you. The actions of companies in the worst of times will not be forgotten, by either staff or customers, when the best of times return. When that happens, employers that sought to take advantage in the short-term may find that they end up paying a far higher price than they ever imagined in the long-term.  
 
In solidarity
 
Howard Beckett
Assistant General Secretary

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