Whilst British Airways cabin crew and the airline still seem some way apart in terms of agreeing a package of pay cuts and redundancies, BALPA – the British Airways pilots union – has agreed a deal with the airline. This is now going out to members for a vote, with a recommendation that they accept.
It is an interesting package, and one which requires large sacrifices on behalf of those who remain to protect those who will not be flying. It is not necessarily a model which can be copied by other parts of the airline, because pilots are on higher base salaries which gives them more room for manoeuvre.
If you remember from our earlier articles, British Airways was seeking to lose 1,255 of its 4,300 pilots. It now looks as if compulsory redundancies could be as low as 200.
This is how it will work, according to a British Airways document sent to pilots which I have seen:
All pilots who remain will take a pay cut of 8%, effective from September 2020
All pilots who remain will take an ADDITIONAL pay cut of 8% (so a total of 16%) which will be paid into a Community Retention Scheme. This pot will be used to pay the salaries of 300 pilots who will be grounded. This pay cut will last from September 2020 to September 2022, with the amount reducing as flight numbers increase and more pilots are pulled back into the active fleet.
The 4% pay rise agreed for April 2021 will be deferred until January 2024
All pilots will take two weeks unpaid leave between August 2020 and April 2021
This is how the pilot numbers will be reduced:
All pilots have been offered voluntary redundancy. They have until next Sunday to accept or reject. I understand that around 250 pilots may accept.
If not enough pilots accept voluntary redundancy, additional staff will be selected for compulsory redundancy to reach the 450 permanent job cuts which I believe are required. However, these pilots will be placed in a ‘Priority Return Pool’ and BA will not hire any pilots externally for three years without first approaching the members of the pool.
Of those who are not given voluntary redundancy or compulsory redundancy, 300 will be placed in the Community Retention Scheme. These pilots will not fly – at all – but will continue to be paid a reduced salary, using money docked from the salaries of their colleagues. These 300 pilots will be the first 300 people to be put back in the air as demand increases.
There are also opportunities for pilots to accept a part-time contract or to transfer to the RAF for a period.
The likelihood of being placed in the Community Retention Scheme will depend on the fleet type operated by that pilot. No A350 or Boeing 787 pilots will be placed on the scheme. Tenure will play a large part in deciding who goes into the Community Retention Scheme, so there is an element of ‘last in, first out’ at play.
Is this a good deal?
In the circumstances, this seems to be as good a deal as could be expected. It is impressive to see that the remaining pilots have agreed to take a substantial pay cut in order to keep 300 of their colleagues on a salary, albeit grounded. Pilots are also required to agree to changes in their working practices.
The deal works both ways, of course. British Airways needs to keep a large group of trained pilots ready to fly as demand picks up. The Community Retention Scheme means that the airline – at no cost to itself – will have 300 people on standby who it knows it can call on when required.
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