A group of MPs has branded British Airways a “national disgrace” over the airline’s move to cut up to 30 per cent of its workforce and change terms and conditions while staff are on the government’s furlough scheme.
The House of Commons’ transport select committee on Saturday published a report examining the effect of the coronavirus crisis on the aviation sector, which singled out BA and accused the airline of a “calculated attempt to take advantage of the pandemic”.
Huw Merriman, chair of the committee, acknowledged the impact of coronavirus might mean the loss of some jobs in the aviation sector was justified but he criticised the depth of the cuts being made by BA.
“It falls well below the standards expected from any employer, especially in light of the scale of taxpayer subsidy, at this time of national crisis,” said Mr Merriman. “This wanton destruction of a loyal workforce cannot appear to go without sanction — by government, parliamentarians or paying passengers who may choose differently in future. We view it as a national disgrace.”
Unite, one of BA’s main unions, last month launched a public campaign to highlight what it described as the “deplorable actions” taken by the airline, accusing it of effectively planning to sack its 42,000-strong workforce and then rehiring about 30,000 staff on worse terms.
In April, IAG, BA’s parent company, was one of the first major airline groups to announce job cuts as it warned that a return to 2019 passenger levels would take “several years”.
Its rivals are taking similar action, with easyJet axing up to 30 per cent of jobs, while Ryanair is looking at reducing 15 per cent. Virgin Atlantic is cutting about a third of its 10,000-strong workforce as carriers look to restructure in light of a slow recovery in air travel.
The committee’s report said airlines should not “proceed hastily with large-scale redundancies” until the job retention scheme ends in October, and the government launches its aviation recovery plan.
In response to the report, BA said: “The government has no plans to help the sector restart and recover as evidenced by the introduction of the 14-day quarantine regulation.”
The airline added that “we find ourselves in the deepest crisis ever faced by the airline industry. A crisis not of our making but one which we must address.”
The committee also called on the government to abandon its 14-day quarantine, which came into effect on Monday. Instead, the government should adopt a more flexible and risk-based approach to border control, such as the so-called “air bridge” approach.
It also hit out at the government for a slow response in coming up with a recovery plan for the aviation industry. The report called for the government to introduce a temporary six-month suspension of air passenger duty payments and 12-month business rates relief for airlines and airports across the UK.
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