MPs have branded British Airways’ behaviour towards its employees a "national disgrace".
UK-based airlines and other aviation employers “should not proceed hastily with large scale redundancies and restructuring to employees’ terms and conditions until the Job Retention Scheme ends in October 2020 and they have had the opportunity to consider the government’s plans to help the sector restart and recover”.
That was the message of the Transport Committee in a report “exploring the gravity of the crisis facing the UK’s aviation sector”.
Several aviation companies have announced redundancies, despite accessing the Government’s Job Retention Scheme, designed to help businesses retain employees.
The actions of BA and parent company, International Airlines Group, draw particular criticism.
The committee’s view is that BA’s current consultation on staffing changes is a calculated attempt to take advantage of the pandemic to cut 12,000 jobs and to downgrade the terms and conditions of approximately 35,000 employees. The consultation is due to end on 15 June.
Chair of the Transport Committee, Huw Merriman MP, said: “The impact of coronavirus may sadly mean that the loss of some jobs in the aviation sector is justified.
“The behaviour of British Airways and its parent company, IAG, is not. 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. It is unacceptable that a company would seek to drive this level of change under the cover of a pandemic.
“We looked closely at BA’s plans to consult on at least 12,000 redundancies and change the terms and conditions of the bulk of its employees.
“Many submitted written evidence to our inquiry and we thank them. As a committee, we have sought to examine this further and drive change using the means open to us through the house, asking urgent questions, seeking debates, introducing legislation and putting questions directly to the prime minister.
“We will continue to bring pressure where we can, including the airport slot allocation process.
“This wanton destruction of a loyal work force cannot appear to go without sanction – by government, parliamentarians or paying passengers who may choose differently in future. We view it is as a national disgrace.”
A BA spokesperson said: “Mr Merriman made clear several weeks ago that the Transport Select Committee’s report would be ‘fuelled by the kind and impassioned messages’ he received, rather than the facts.
“The facts are clear.
“The government has no plans to help the sector restart and recover as evidenced by the introduction of the 14-day quarantine regulation.
“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.
“We will do everything in our power to ensure that British Airways can survive and sustain the maximum number of jobs consistent with the new reality of a changed airline industry in a severely weakened global economy.”
Brian Strutton, Balpa union general secretary, said: “I welcome this report and thank the committee for the opportunity to have given evidence.
“I am pleased that the committee agreed with Balpa’s point that airlines should not carry out redundancies or restructuring until more is known about the recovery.
“Now is not the right time to be taking knee-jerk decisions affecting the livelihoods of so many people in what could easily turn out to be a short-sighted and economically damaging way.
“And I am pleased that the report highlights the lack of evidence for, and damaging impact of, the government’s botched 14-day quarantine policy, which unless reversed very soon, will be hugely damaging for the long-term health of this industry.”