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British Airways turns the screw on its pilots over redundancies

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British Airways has turned the screw on its pilots over redundancy plans, despite the hopes of their union that a deal could be reached.

BALPA, the pilots union, is generally seen as the grown-up in the room when it comes to dealing with British Airways.

This doesn’t always work, of course – BALPA caved in on its pay demands last year and its proposed strikes fizzled out – but it sees itself as representing a wealthier group of people than GMB and Unite and acts accordingly.

During the current talks over mass redundancies and pay cuts, BALPA has been talking to British Airways.  It is the only union which has accepted invitations by British Airways to consult over how the necessary cuts can be made.  This has allowed British Airways to put pressure on GMB and Unite over their unwillingness to join discussions over the fate of cabin crew and ground staff.

British Airways turns the screw on its pilots over redundancies

I don’t think anyone believed that BALPA would lead British Airways to change its plans, but there was some hope that the restructuring could be done in as painless a way as possible.

A few days ago, BALPA got a shock.

British Airways issued a new Section 188 notice to the union.  This is the official document which outlines proposed redundancies and starts the legally required 45 day consultation period.

This new Section 188 document had, I believe, two major changes to the original version issued last month:

The number of redundancies has been increased from 955 to 1,080 – plus an additional 175 redundancies which had already been proposed as part of a previous efficiency process

The pilots have now been told that, if agreement between BA and BALPA is not made within 45 days (by 18th July), all pilots may be made redundant and British Airways will decide which pilots will be offered new, inferior, contracts to rejoin

This second element is part of the existing Section 188 letter issued to other parts of British Airways.  It was not in the original Section 188 noticed issued to pilots.

The airline is now looking to get rid of 1,255 of its 4,300 pilots.

BALPA was under the impression that it was making some progress with British Airways.  In a letter, which I have seen, it suggested that:

British Airways was on the verge of agreeing to a voluntary redundancy package for pilots (all other parts of the business will just receive statutory redundancy pay, as will pilots if no agreement is reached)

Agreement was in sight over plans for some pilots to move across to the RAF or to take other roles within the company, with a guarantee that they could return to a flying role after a period

There was a discussion over pilots voluntarily joining the furlough scheme (at present, pilots have voluntarily agreed to work for free for one month but are not furloughed) in return for guarantees over job security.  This would represent a substantial drop in income for most pilots.

These plans may now be dead in the water.  BALPA added that:

“We cannot begin to describe the level of disappointment and annoyance this [new Section 188 letter] has caused.”

In a separate statement, Brian Strutton, General Secretary of BALPA, said:

“This has seriously undermined our talks which now hang by a thread.  It calls into question whether BA is even capable of conducting industrial relations properly and whether anything they say can be trusted.”

If the pilots had thought that they were in a position to get a better deal from the airline than other staff, they don’t think that today.

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Comments (88)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Shane says:

    “but it sees itself as representing a wealthier and better educated group of people than GMB and Unite and acts accordingly“. Right… I used to respect this site. No proof to back up this statement.

    • Rob says:

      I think the way BALPA has acted over the years makes this clear, but I have amended the article.

  • Nick_C says:

    It’s terribly sad. But inevitable.

    I feel sorry for the hundreds of thousands of people who will lose their jobs because of the recession and the changing world we are entering.

  • Callum says:

    “but it sees itself as representing a wealthier and better educated group of people than GMB and Unite and acts accordingly.”

    Does BALPA actually think that, or is that your snobbery coming through? I’d be pretty shocked if they ever said that – whether on the record or not!

    • Rob says:

      That is the BALPA approach but I have tweaked the article anyway.

      • Callum says:

        I have no idea what that even means… But thanks for removing it!

  • Ian says:

    The final straw for BA (and its staff) has been this quarantine just announced by the government. It has completely destroyed BA’s plans for a phased return to normality planned to start in July. I imagine the financial consequences are so great that BA has had to go back to square one in terms of planning its future. Place the blame for this debacle where it lies: the chaotic government response to the pandemic. Remember too that the Opposition is not opposing this absurd measure and apparently 75% of the public approve of it too. There’s no hope.

  • Spk says:

    Don’t understand why people think some employees should be given guarantees on their high income until they retire. Can someone guarantee my income until I retire? If I lose my job, it’s the same situation as thousands who have lost their jobs. Why would BA employees get special status?

    • Mattjam76 says:

      I don’t think that’s the point. If I have a contract with a company. They make me redundant and then immediately rehire me to do the same job, then that is frankly abusive.

      • Charlieface says:

        Not really relative to other jobs, where they can tell you to take a pay cut or get lost, no tricks needed.

      • Nick_C says:

        Happens a lot.

      • Joe M says:

        Matt, if it means the survival of the company then they can! Whether it’s morally correct or not. Best of luck

    • LD says:

      BA CEO and IAG board are guaranteed their pension on their extravagant pay, which does not comes close to that their employees.

      • insider says:

        not sure what this means?? they are all on defined contribution schemes like all other non-legacy employees. It’s the legacy staff like long serving pilots, crew and management who were on defined benefit schemes, which have now pretty much all closed.

    • Sue G says:

      People that have been loyal employees for 20+ years are having their pay cut to less than half, with more hours…
      Their pay isn’t that great to start with, I don’t know where you’re getting the idea that they’re being paid a fortune..
      Their treatment of long term staff is a disgrace.

      • Joe M says:

        Why do you think BA should be any different from any other company ? Many big named retailers did it in 2016 and 2018. Loyalty doesn’t keep companies afloat when facing a 97% loss in future revenue ??? The days of “the golden runway” have long gone and it’s time to accept that a job is better than no jobs ! The terms and conditions are outdated.

    • James says:

      A race to the bottom will benefit nobody.

    • Anuj says:

      Why do you want to drive rights down instead of being rights up with everyone else

    • Rtd CSD says:

      I couldn’t agree more ! Sadly many BA employees are and remain shockingly unaware that this is happening to many globally. Their union BASSA fills their heads with outdated vitriol having them believe it’s ok to earn in excess of £50k per cabin crew when the UK GDP has dropped by 29% and the revenue is no longer there ! They live in a bubble of privilege and greed that is outdated and excessive for what actually is a relatively low skilled job !

  • John says:

    Incidentally, IAG has already started unilateral sackings, despite the 70% “temporary” pay cuts imposed earlier.

    • Lady London says:

      I think EI is doing its best *not* to sack as many people as it could. Good for them, for trying.

      The problem is that ‘voluntary’ pay cuts are like a drug to a company. Requests for them get repeated. Employees know full well it’s not voluntary and don’t dare invoke their right to be paid in full.

      • ChrisC says:

        BA still has to pay back staff for the voluntary pay cuts during the 2008 financial crisis despite saying they would when things got better

  • ChrisC says:

    We know BA plans for Pilots, Cabin Crew and Cardiff maintenance but what about other staff – directly employed ground based staff at airports and those in the call centres for example – I’ve not seen anything about them.

    What about management? As the top executives having their numbers and salaries and benefits slashed as well?

    (Can people also think of those whose jobs will be affected because of the long term cuts in the flying programme such as those working for example at Do & Co and Newquest (I think that’s the company whom do Gatwick catering) or airport employed staff – few passengers means fewer security staff etc etc )

    • AJA says:

      All staff at all departments of BA are affected. The only person who seems immune unfortunately is Alex Cruz. I imagine Luiz Gallego might review his role in all this when he takes over after WW finally retires.

      I agree it’s terrible, and you’re right this is also affecting the catering companies and those who supply them and all BA service providers will also struggle. It’s affecting the alcohol suppliers too which is why you can buy Brewdog beer directly from them.

      • marcw says:

        Spoiler: the whole airlie industry, and related industries, are heavily affected by the COVID-19 situation. Remember, it was the first industry to be affected by, and is going to be the LAST industry to recover from the crisis.

        All airlines are cutting fleets, staff numbers, laying off people, stop rutes, cut frequencies,… BA is not the exception.

      • Briandt says:

        @Ajax You mean like Easy jet, Virgin, Ryanair, Aer Lingus, etc…. also affecting support services, or do you mean BA only?

        • AJA says:

          I mean all non-airline companies who are suppliers to BA and the airline industry as a whole. With so few flights, minimal catering, no lounges, no duty free, all the shops and restaurants in the terminals closed, the airport companies themselves, taxi companies etc. they must all be feeling the effects of so few passengers flying. The only suppliers doing ok are the cargo handling agents as that is pretty much the only bit not affected. I drove past Heathrow the other day, the sight of so many BA planes just parked up around the airport was quite sad.

  • Alex B says:

    I thought the whole point of redundancy was you were making the role not the individual redundant?

    How does that fit in with making all your pilots redundant and then rehiring them to fly the same planes?

    • Czechoslovakia says:


    • Joe M says:

      Not all Pilots Fly every aircraft. Most are type specific. So there no more jobs for those who fly the now retired 747 and obsolete A380. The aircraft still need are over subscribed fir the needs of the business so due to significant loss in demand for travel the roles are no longer there.

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