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BA strike threat in summer of travel chaos

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

British Airways (BA) workers could strike over plans to “fire and rehire” thousands of workers.

The Unite union has accused BA of using the coronavirus pandemic as cover to impose a long-term plan to “fire and rehire” the majority of its staff in order to re-engage them on inferior terms and conditions, while making up to 12,000 redundant.

The union has warned the airline that its ready to ballot for potential strike action. Any industrial action would further add to the summer’s travel chaos which has seen thousands of flights cancelled, quarantine rules introduced then dropped for exempt countries, and ever-changing government travel advice.

BA set out plans to make up to 12,000 workers redundant in April after the collapse in demand for air travel due to lockdown.

But Unite, which represents thousands cabin crew, engineers and maintenance staff working for BA, accused the airline of planning to sack staff then rehire them on new contracts with worse terms. Some staff would see a 40% pay cut under the changes.

It’s understood that many staff have been given until 31 July to sign a new contract before the company is scheduled to make a final determination on its plans a week later.

In a letter to BA’s chief executive Alex Cruz, quoted on the BBC website, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey accused  BA’s chief executive Alex Cruz, of “arrogance” in his dealings with the union.

McCluskey says: “You have now published a timetable to fire and rehire thousands of your workforce on 7 August. We will work every hour between now and then to convince you not to do so.

“You can take this letter as our commitment to do that. However, you can also take this as an intention to defend our members by moving towards industrial action with immediate effect.”

BA is owned by International Airlines Group (IAG). The airline is only operating about 15% of its normal schedule – with reduced demand – costing the airline about £20m a day.

It has already reached a deal with its pilots that involves making 270 redundancies, rather than the 1,250 planned, in return for other staff taking pay cuts.