BA risks ‘serious confrontation’ with unions

Unions have warned BA to rethink plans to cull 1,700 jobs and freeze pay or “risk a serious, drawn-out confrontation”.

The Unite union accused the airline of intimidating workers to accept pay freezes and branded its decision to cut 1,000 jobs and force a further 3,000 to go part-time as “disgraceful”.

However, BA remains defiant and in a statement following the emergency meeting last night said the job cuts “will go ahead as planned”.

A BA spokesman said: “The changes we have announced will not alter contractual terms and conditions for individual members of existing crew.  We have been discussing these changes with the union since January.

“Those cabin crew leaving the company have volunteered to do so.

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“We will not be recruiting any new crew for some time until the business is in a position to grow. New rates of pay for any future crew would be ahead of market rate. Different groups of cabin crew have had different terms and conditions for many years. For example, Heathrow-based crew are on significantly more costly terms and conditions than Gatwick-based crew.

“We are always available to talk with our trade unions. But the changes we have announced will go ahead as planned.”

The changes will come into place from the end of next month.

Steve Turner, Unite national officer for aviation, said: “This imposition is completely unacceptable.

“It is a disgraceful attempt to intimidate workers into accepting poorer contracts. This imposition must be withdrawn.”

He also accused the airline of “categorically refusing” to talk about the plans to cut jobs and freeze pay at three days of talks at the conciliation service Acas last week.

A statement from the airline earlier this week said: “Revenues are down, so we must reduce costs and restore profitability.

“Thousands of staff across the airline have already made contributions to the cost reduction programme.”

Earlier this year chief executive Willie Walsh controversially asked staff to follow his lead and work for a month without pay, which many did.

It has also scrapped sandwiches on short-haul flights and is introducing charges on pre-booked seats.

The statement continued: “Without changes, we will continue to lose more money with every month that passes.

“It is essential we make ourselves more efficient if we are to ensure our long-term survival.”

In the year to the end of March, BA made a loss of £401m - its biggest loss since it was privatised in 1987.

The outlook for the industry has not improved this year, and BA expects to make a big loss for the second consecutive year.