The UK transport committee has criticised a British Airways decision to cut 12,000 jobs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, calling the move a “national disgrace”.
UK-based airlines and other aviation employers should not proceed hastily with large scale redundancies and restructuring to employees’ terms and conditions, the committee said.
Officials pointed to the job retention scheme, which runs until October, as one avenue for limiting job losses.
In a report exploring the gravity of the crisis facing the aviation sector in the UK, the committee said fundamental decisions about livelihoods should not be made prematurely.
Several aviation companies have announced redundancies, despite accessing the job retention scheme, which is designed to help businesses severely affected by the pandemic to retain employees and protect the economy.
The actions of British Airways and parent company, International Airlines Group, drew particular criticism.
The carrier is in the process of cutting jobs and is seeking to downgrade the terms and conditions of approximately 35,000 employees.
Chair of the transport committee, Huw Merriman, said: “The impact of coronavirus may sadly mean that the loss of some jobs in the aviation sector is justified.
“The behaviour of British Airways and its parent company, IAG, is not.
“It falls well below the standards expected from any employer, especially in light of the scale of taxpayer subsidy, at this time of national crisis.
“It is unacceptable that a company would seek to drive this level of change under the cover of a pandemic.”
He added: “We looked closely at BA’s plans to consult on at least 12,000 redundancies and change the terms and conditions of the bulk of its employees.
“As a committee, we have sought to examine this further and drive change using the means open to us through the House, asking urgent questions, seeking debates, introducing legislation and putting questions directly to the prime minister.
“We will continue to bring pressure where we can, including the airport slot allocation process.
“This wanton destruction of a loyal work force cannot appear to go without sanction – by government, parliamentarians or paying passengers who may choose differently in future.
“We view it is as a national disgrace.”
The introduction of a 14-day blanket quarantine for travellers to the UK from other countries will also damage the recovery of the sector and the wider economy, the committee added.
Should the conditions allow in late June, the committee calls for the quarantine policy to be abandoned when it is next reviewed and urges government to introduce a more flexible and risk-based approach to border control, using alternatives such as targeted quarantines, ‘air bridges’ and temperature screening.
In defending its decision, the government should clearly set out the evidence it used to reach its decision.
ABTA supported the findings of the reporting, welcoming acknowledgement that the travel industry is under extraordinary pressure.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, said: “The government must now take urgent steps to issue a clear roadmap to restart international travel safely and with a more flexible and risk-based approach, to help the travel industry out of the current crisis.”
Read the full report from the transport committee on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the UK travel sector here.