Unions have stepped up their battle with British Airways by accusing the management of “bullying” and being “unrealistic to the needs of workers” after the airline disclosed that 800 employees had accepted its request to work for nothing.
The volunteers for unpaid work are among 6,940 staff who agreed to take a pay cut in a move that the flag carrier says will save up to £10m. Wille Walsh, BA’s chief executive, described the fact that the staff agreed to take less money as “a fantastic first response”. He also announced plans to forgo his salary next month in a move that has been dismissed by some as a publicity stunt.
The cost-saving measure include taking unpaid leave for up to a year and switching from full-time to part-time work.
Concerns over Walsh’s request that staff work between a week and a month for free ranged from whether employees could afford to work unpaid, to fears that the company might discriminate against those staff who turned down the request.
Steve Turner of worker’s union Unite said: “While we support means to mitigate redundancy, workers were sent intimidating e-mails from senior managers, which we believe put pressure on staff to volunteer for one of the changes BA proposed, otherwise they would get a meeting with a manager.
“This bullying and constant harassment of our members is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
BA also confirmed it was considering charging for a range of items, such as peanuts and wine, as it desperately grapples to cut costs. The airline suffered a £401m pre-tax loss last year, its worst in 25 years.
Mick Rix, national officer for aviation for GMB union, said: “Eight hundred people is less than 2 percent of BA’s workforce and shows that the clear majority think it is a very bad idea. If you’re an executive on £62,000 a month [Walsh’s salary], that’s OK. But the vast majority can’t afford to make such sacrifices.”