BA ultimatum: accept 20% pay cut or lose your job

Striking British Airways cabin crew outside parliament – BA wants to sack 42,000 workers and re-employ 30,000 on lower wages with worse conditions

British Airways has told cabin crew they must take a 20% cut in basic pay if they want to keep their jobs, – but crews say the cut actually amounts to 40%, with meal and other allowances wiped out.

BA workers are clear about what is involved. One said she will not be earning enough to pay her mortgage.
‘I’m a 55 year old single parent, I’ve been in my house a year. My life has been built around the salary I have.’
In contrast, she pointed to BA parent company IAG’s 1.7bn euros (£1.54bn) profit last year.
‘We made the company billions in profit and frontline staff have seen none of it.
‘I’ve saved a life, I’ve held a man’s hand while he died, I’ve fought a cigarette fire in the toilet.
‘They’re saying we’ll guarantee you 80% of your basic salary – but my basic salary only makes up 60% of my (overall) salary.
‘Staff should be an asset, instead they’re being treated as a liability.’
MPs called BA’s plans to sack 12,000 of its 42,000 strong workforce ‘a national disgrace’.
A recent report by the Transport Select Committee accused the airline of a ‘calculated attempt to take advantage’ of the pandemic by cutting thousands of jobs and downgrading terms and conditions.
A cabin crew member who has worked for the airline since 1989, said: ‘We know we make a profit but people are being offered new contracts which won’t allow them to pay their mortgages.
‘They’ve chipped away allowances, holiday pay and even training.
‘The new crew members are being taken on at a young age, but not given the training in service that we were.’
The airline’s Heathrow-based cabin crew are divided into three ‘fleets’ or teams, all with different pay and conditions: the Worldwide fleet for long haul flights, the Eurofleet for short haul and the Mixed fleet.
BA plans to move all three teams onto cheap labour mixed fleet rates.
Much of what Worldwide and Eurofleet crew earn comes in the form of variable allowances paid on top of their basic salary, which would be replaced under the new scheme and there has been talk of cuts even exceeding 60%.
Under the BA proposals, all cabin crew would now have to apply for jobs in BA’s mixed fleet, the unit set up in a sell-out agreement between BA and Unite at the end of a bitter strike in 2010.
Given that longer-serving cabin crew salaries are largely made up of flight pay and allowances, many would see their overall earnings reduced by much more than 20%.
Elsewhere at BA, talks are continuing with the pilots’ trade union Balpa over a redundancy deal.
No offer has yet been put to ground staff.
BA says no unions other than Balpa have turned up to talks, despite meetings scheduled almost daily since the airline announced plans to cut jobs and change contracts.
Other airlines and their service providers in the UK are planning to sack a similar proportion of their workforce and cut pay by similar amounts.
EasyJet announced up to 4,500 job losses last month,
Virgin Atlantic plans to sack 3,000 and Ryanair has said it will cut 3,000 jobs and pay pay by 20%.
Unite says the 30,000 BA staff face pay cuts of up to 70%, while other airlines including easyJet (EZJ.L), Ryanair (RYA.I) and Virgin Atlantic have also agreed to cut pay.
Meanwhile, Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) said last week that it would make thousands of compulsory job cuts if the talks with unions over pay cuts break down this week.
Heathrow Airport bosses say they hope to avoid job losses through their cost-cutting proposals.
It would also scrap January’s four per cent pay rise which had been agreed for its workers.
Last week, Unite and other unions rejected Heathrow’s initial proposals.
If no agreement is reached at meetings this week Heathrow could issue a Section 188 notice triggering formal consultation on job cuts.
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye has said one in three jobs in the aviation industry is threatened.
Heathrow employs 7,500 people directly, suggesting 2,500 jobs could be at risk.
Sharon Graham, Unite’s executive officer, said: ‘Unite is fully aware of BA’s financial position. BA is facing a short-term liquidity crisis. There is no need for such extreme permanent cuts to be made.’
Swissport is to cut more than half of its UK workforce – up to 4,556 jobs.
Swissport operates at airports across the UK, including Heathrow and Gatwick, which are among those badly hit by the crisis.
Swissport employs about 8,500 workers at airports, including baggage handlers and check-in staff.
The GMB union said the announcement was ‘devastating news’, with jobs set to be lost that are essential for regional economies.
Nadine Houghton, national officer of the GMB, said: ‘With Swissport now considering job cuts on this scale, we have deep concerns about the viability of many of our regional airports and the benefits for regional connectivity that they bring.’
Oliver Richardson, national officer of Unite, said: ‘We can’t wait any longer, the UK government needs to urgently intervene with a bespoke financial package and an extension of the 80% furlough scheme for the aviation industry.’
Unite in Ireland confirmed that 287 workers at Belfast City Airport and Belfast International Airport face redundancy.
‘This will be devastating news for these workers and their families.

  • Following a despicable attack on the right to organise, ETF (European Transport Workers Federation) is urging the Czech government to take action and ensure that Ryanair reinstates leaders of B.United trade union.

A cabin crew union B.United was registered in the Czech Republic recently, representing direct Ryanair employees and agency workers.
The workers notified Ryanair of the existence of the union and requested an emergency meeting since the company is currently trying to change conditions of the cabin crew contracts.
A day later three union leaders – Matteo Pizzolato, Andrea Schiraldi, Izhar Arcos Poveda – were fired by Ryanair.
ETF stands in solidarity with B.United and the Czech transport federation Odborov˘ svaz dopravy in their demands for the Czech government:

  • Take steps to ensure workers and union rights are protected and respected by Ryanair, its subsidiaries and employment agencies;

• Take steps to demand Ryanair is complying with workers rights to unionise.