On the day that more than 6,000 staff are being forced to leave British Airways and the remaining workforce will discover their intended fate, Unite has warned the airline that this ‘gross injustice’ will destroy precious relationships with passengers and employees for many years to come.
Unite, which has accused the company of ‘industrial thuggery’, has denounced today's redundancies as a gross injustice marking a bleak day in BA's history when loyal employees are being ‘forced out by company greed’.
The union has written to its members today to reassure them that it will provide advice and support to all those receiving letters from the company, which will indicate who has been selected for redundancy above and beyond the 6,000 employees who leave the airline today.
In one particularly spiteful act, BA is requiring those who leave the company after years of loyal service to sign away their legal rights to challenge their selection or face losing the rights to staff travel, long regarded as an established right for those leaving BA.
Unite is continuing to resist compulsory redundancies and has pledged to fight to the end to fend off attacks on pay that could see some staff lose £20,000 from their annual earnings.
Unite's General Secretary, Len McCluskey, has called upon BA to offer the deal that it struck with pilots to the rest of the workforce as a way to bring a fair resolution to the current crisis.
Commenting for Unite, Howard Beckett, the union's Assistant General Secretary, said: "This is a very bleak day for the incredible BA workforce and will go down in the history of the airline as the day that it put the interests of the boardroom ahead of its passengers and workforce.
"These workers have given years of dedicated service to this company, some as many as 40 years, and indeed to our country as many were involved in the repatriation of British citizens at the outset of this pandemic. Today they will be dismissed by email by an employer whose spiteful mistreatment of them is nothing other than despicable.
"We say to the workforce today, do not sign or accept anything that this company puts to you without first consulting your union. BA want you to waive away your legal rights to fair treatment, but we say to the airline, do not underestimate either this union or this workforce.
"We will use every tool in the box to prevent these gross injustices to this workforce.
"This company has displayed scant regard for either employment law or basic common decency – we cannot trust them to do the right thing by this workforce so we will be doing everything in our power to prevent this continued industrial thuggery.
"Make no mistake, four thousand loyal workers are being forced out of the jobs that they love today by naked company greed. Unite will fight to the end to prevent more BA colleagues from suffering the same fate and we will do everything in our power to prevent compulsory redundancies and attacks on workers' wages by a boardroom with billions in the bank.
"This is a business that made record profits last year. It has predicted that it will return to health in two to three years - and it even has the money to buy another airline, Air Europa. It has the cash to afford to make different choices, as can be seen by how it is conducting itself with its Iberia and Aer Lingus operations, but instead is using this crisis to remodel what was once the flag-carrier as a low-cost airline.
"BA's customers have given the staff incredible support during this awful time. They understand that it is the staff who make this airline, not the brutish boardroom, and the damage that the company is doing to BA's airline could scar it indefinitely.
"Little wonder then that over 200 MPs are questioning BA's right to lucrative slots. These routes should go to businesses that invest in Britain and our workers, not companies like BA who mistreat their workforce and deliberately shrink their footprint in this country.
"Unite will continue to call upon BA to rethink this needless and cruel strategy. We have said that it should offer staff the same deal that it has settled with pilots and then we can move forward together to combat this crisis. It is a call we repeat today as we press on with our efforts to stop the destruction of what was once a much-loved national carrier."
As its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline has been pursuing an opportunistic ‘fire and rehire' policy in an effort to shed 12,000 employees and diminish the pay, terms and conditions of the remaining 30,000 plus. No other employer in the industry has followed this path; Ryanair, for example, has pledged that wages cut now to assist in the downturn will be returned when the recovery comes.
In the weeks since BA announced its drastic plan, Unite has been working to mitigate its impact in an effort to save as many jobs as possible and protect the pay of the remaining workforce.
The union is continuing in its efforts to persuade the airline that there is a more positive path to follow, backed by over 200 MPs who have raised concerns that the airline's conduct means that it has forfeited its claim to lucrative slots, such as the ones which provides the routes between Heathrow and JFK.