FORTY-TWO THOUSAND British Airways workers have been sent letters from Director of Heathrow, Mel Birch, dated 15th July 2020, telling them that they face the sack by 31st August.
The letter, along with the document that accompanies it, invites the 42,000 to apply for ‘voluntary redundancy’, emphasising that ‘this will be your last opportunity to accept VR’.
Those that want to keep their jobs are told that they will have to apply to the company to be considered for different jobs on new contracts.
‘Successful applicants’ will see their pay cut by at least 20%, be forced to take several weeks unpaid leave in the winter, do compulsory overtime, have all their other terms and conditions slashed, and then have the prospect of being ‘outsourced’ to a separate privateer sometime in the future, where they would again face the prospect of redundancy.
The company’s ‘selection process’ begins on 5th August and the document says the company intends to ‘pick and choose’ who it will ‘let go’, based on their ‘conduct, performance and attendance’ record.
The letter from Birch states:
‘Please take time to read this letter and the accompanying document, as it contains important information about your role at British Airways and requires you to make an informed choice about your future …
‘On 28th April, we launched a consultation on proposals to reshape our Airports team. Since then, we have been committed to consulting with your trade union representatives.
‘Whilst we have invited your trade union representatives to over 80 Airports consultation meetings, they have failed to attend any of these. Nevertheless, we have continued to share information with them, and have used this time to evaluate our proposals and consider feedback provided by colleagues …
‘While collective consultation will remain open, we are now moving into the individual consultation phase. This means we will be inviting colleagues to meet with us individually to discuss our proposed changes and understand what it means for you.
Making informed choices
‘The purpose of this letter is to provide you with detailed information, which sets out exactly what these proposals mean for you. It also sets out timelines and explains what you should do next. In short, you’ll need to decide if you prefer to stay, or prefer to leave.
‘If you prefer to leave, you can opt for voluntary redundancy now, and you will not be considered as part of any selection process. This will be your last opportunity to accept VR as part of this process …
‘If you prefer to stay, you’ll be considered for a role through our selection process. If you’re successful, you’ll be offered a role in the new organisation. If you are unsuccessful, you will leave BA with a redundancy payment based on a statutory calculation.
‘Whether you prefer to leave, or you prefer to stay, you will have the opportunity to join our Priority Return Talent Pool.
‘Once you have decided on what is the right option for you, please complete the online preference form, which is shared in this pack, and submit this by 17:00 on 5th August 2020. If you don’t complete the form, our assumption is that you wish to remain in British Airways.’
The accompanying document opens:
Prefer to stay
‘We assume that you wish to remain employed with British Airways and so this is the default option; which means that you will be entered into the selection process and should you be successful, you will be appointed to a new role.’
However, it then warns: ‘If your role is highlighted as being impacted by a proposed outsourcing, you may be at risk of redundancy if TUPE is not expected to apply.’
So even if BA takes you back on 31st August you could still be ‘outsourced’ and sacked subsequently.
The document then announces unpaid leave for ‘successful applicants’.
It states: ‘Unpaid leave in winter 2020/21 All colleagues who are successful in securing a role in our team are expected to take a one-off period of unpaid leave (up to four weeks per full-time equivalent, pro-rata) at some point during the Winter 2020/21 season.’
The document proceeds to make clear that it recognises that the ‘deal’ it is proposing to impose on its workforce is extremely ‘dodgy’ in terms of employment law and is trying to cover itself.
‘Contract and settlement agreement
‘You will be served notice on your current contract and will be offered the new Heathrow 2020 contract. You will be provided with both the new contract and a settlement agreement on terms agreeable to British Airways.
‘You will need to sign and return both of these documents in order to accept a role in the new team.
‘(A settlement agreement is an agreement between you and British Airways where you agree not to bring certain claims against British Airways and must be signed to enact any changes to contract. To facilitate this, British Airways will provide you with external independent legal advice, however, should you wish to seek your own legal advice, you may do so at your own expense. It is a legal requirement to obtain legal advice on any settlement agreement.)’
‘What happens if I am not successful through
It is quite blunt.
‘If you are unsuccessful and are not offered an alternative role, you will remain at risk of redundancy. At this stage, we will consider if there are any further opportunities to avoid or mitigate your redundancy. You can raise an appeal if you believe that procedural errors have been made in reaching this outcome. Details of how to raise an appeal will be communicated to you if relevant.
‘If no alternatives are available, you will be dismissed as redundant and will receive a redundancy payment comprising of statutory redundancy pay and any other payment(s) due, including contractual notice pay.
‘In this instance, we expect colleagues would leave British Airways on 31st August 2020 (subject to operational requirements).’
The document then gives key dates and states:
‘From now-Friday 31st July Individual consultation period available to book
‘From now-Wednesday 5th August Preference form available to accept voluntary redundancy
‘From now-Wednesday 5th August Preference form available to submit preference to stay in BA, apply for an open role and request to reduce your hours
‘17:00 Wednesday 5th August Preference form closes
‘From Monday 10th August Provisional selection outcomes shared with colleagues via work email’
Making clear that BA intends to pick and choose who it takes back on the grossly inferior terms and conditions laid out above, the document concludes.
‘Appendix 1. – proposed selection criteria
‘The proposal to select colleagues for redundancy will involve using data in relation to conduct, performance and attendance.’
A BA worker and Unite member told News Line: ‘They’ve sent 42,000 of us a letter asking do you want to stay on new terms and conditions, and for some a new role, or do you want to take redundancy?
‘If you say you want to stay but don’t meet the requirements of the new role, they will give you government redundancy, i.e. forced redundancy, and put you in a pool for two years in case they want you back.
‘They are also threatening people who have had to take time off through sickness, that’s mainly long-serving staff, with forced redundancy. They are looking at people’s attendance and sickness records and warning that they might get rid of them anyway. So they are picking and choosing who they’ll take back.
‘The pay cuts amount to 20%, along with forced compulsory overtime, between six and eight weeks a year unpaid leave, inferior terms for sick leave and stricter disciplinary procedures, making it easier for them to sack people.
‘The feeling amongst members is absolute disgust. Everyone wants to fight for their jobs on their existing terms and conditions.
‘We know they’ve got money, they’ve just paid £1.5 billion for another airline in Europe. More than 60% of profits in AIG, the mother company, are made by BA.
‘The union should not be discussing things behind closed doors, we want transparency.
‘What the unions have established over decades – decent terms, conditions, wages, pensions – are now being negotiated away by the current leadership. This must not be allowed.
‘We want a mass meeting where we can discuss the action needed to defend our jobs, terms and conditions – and we want it now!’