Since British Airways announced 12,000 redundancies in response to the coronavirus outbreak, I have been contacted by a number of constituents in fear of losing their jobs. I am shocked that a company which made £8 billion profit over the last six years, considers so many loyal staff expendable.
The Transport Select Committee questioned Willie Walsh (CEO of BA’s parent IAG) on 11 May. Mr Walsh was asked why redundancies in the UK will be much more dramatic than in BA’s sister company in Spain and why conditions of employment are forfeit for remaining 43,000 staff. The full transcript is available here.
Unfortunately, since this committee met Mr Walsh has confirmed in writing that IAG will press ahead with their plan.
I have written to the Department for Transport to ask what more the government will do to protect BA staff. I also signed the letter below along with London Labour colleagues calling on IAG to meet with MPs and union reps to discuss their strategy.
I will continue to do all I can to safeguard the livelihoods of my constituents and encourage anyone directly affected to contact me or their union reps.
Full text of London Labour letter below.
Dear Willie Walsh,
We are writing to you as we have concerns in response to the news that British Airways is making 12,000 of its hardworking staff redundant whilst reducing the pay and terms and conditions of the remaining employees under threat of dismissal.
We would urge you in the strongest possible terms to reconsider this decision and offer to meet with you alongside your workers’ trade unions, Unite and GMB, to discuss a long-term strategy to see British Airways and your employees through the COVID-19 crisis. We hope you accept this offer of a meeting, but we would also like to raise some specific questions.
The way this decision was made is a cause for concern. Pursuing redundancies and reducing the pay and terms and conditions of staff without consultation is a devastating blow to a loyal, hardworking and dedicated workforce. Can you outline what steps you took prior to making the decision including:
1) Why you chose to start the process of making employees redundant whilst they were on furlough?
2) Why you utilised the Job Retention Scheme, the sole purpose of which is to keep people in work, and then announced redundancies?
3) What requests for financial assistance, if any, you have made of the government?
4) Whether the government refused to provide assistance?
5) Why you felt it was necessary to take this opportunity to change employee pay and terms and conditions only in British Airway and not throughout IAG?
6) Whether you will abandon the plan to reduce pay and terms and conditions of the remaining staff if they refuse to accept such changes, or if you still intend to dismiss all remaining staff who don’t
7) What steps, if any, you took to mitigate the scale of the measures you have proposed given that you have not proposed such size and scale of jobs losses and changes to terms and condition in any other airline
8) How can any meaningful consultation with staff and their trades unions have taken place whilst workers are furloughed and based remotely, and social distancing and lockdown measures are still in place?
9) Why you chose to only give the statutory minimum notice of 45 days when proposing 12,000 redundancies and changes to pay and terms and conditions of the entire workforce?
10) We welcome news that Iberian Airlines and Vueling, the Spanish carriers of IAG, negotiated €1 billion worth of loans underwritten by the Spanish government to offset the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. However, it is concerning that British Airways, to our knowledge, refused to seek this support from the UK government. What are the reasons for this different approach?
11) Why is there a lack of consistency internationally in IAG’s response to seeking government aid during the COVID-19 crisis?
This is a difficult time for everyone in the UK and a time when the country is pulling together.
We want to work towards the best possible way forward through the COVID-19 crisis for your company, your workers and for the aviation sector as a whole.
In this spirit, we look forward to receiving your response to the points above, numbered for ease, and also to our request for a meeting, at your earliest possible convenience.
Wes Streeting MP, Chair, London Labour Group of MPs
Rushanara Ali MP Janet Daby MP Abena Oppong-Asare MP Fleur Anderson MP Florence Eshalomi MP Kate Osamor MP Apsana Begum MP Vicky Foxcroft MP Matthew Pennycook MP Lyn Brown MP Barry Gardiner MP Ellie Reeves MP Karen Buck MP Helen Hayes MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP Dawn Butler MP Margaret Hodge MP Virendra Sharma MP Ruth Cadbury MP Rupa Huq MP Tulip Siddiq MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Sarah Jones MP Andy Slaughter MP Marsha de Cordova MP David Lammy MP Sam Tarry MP Neil Coyle MP Seema Malhotra MP Emily Thornberry MP Stella Creasy MP Siobhain McDonagh MP Stephen Timms MP Jon Cruddas MP John McDonnell MP Catherine West MP John Cryer MP James Murray MP