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Has Len McCluskey admitted that Unite’s actions increased the British Airways redundancies?

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If you work for British Airways as cabin crew or in parts of engineering, you would have found out on Friday whether your job was safe or if you had been made redundant.  Other parts of the business will find out their fates this week.

As has been well publicised, the approach of the Unite union throughout this process has been one of disengagement.  Unite spent the majority of the legally required consultation period refusing to meet with the airline, and also recommended that its members refuse to engage with the process.

The latter part now seems to have come home to roost.  It appears, although clearly British Airways will not confirm this, that redundancies have been made purely on the basis of a defined ranking process.  This makes the process legally ‘sound’ and means that BA can clearly show that no favouritism or bias took blace.  Ranking was based on various factors including historic appraisals, but also some information requested from staff.  Those who refused to complete the documents required, as the union suggested, did not do themselves any favours.

On Friday, Unite issued a statement on the crew redundancies which you can find here.

It contains a statement which appears relatively uncontentious but is actually quite shocking:

“Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey has called upon BA to offer the deal that it struck with pilots to the rest of the workforce as a way to bring a fair resolution to the current crisis.”

unite british airways redundancies

Unlike Unite, the pilot’s union BALPA DID choose to engage and negotiate with British Airways.

The result of these negotations was that the number of job losses amongst pilots was SUBSTANTIALLY reduced.  The initial plan for 1,255 compulsory redundancies was reduced to around 200.

This is how it worked:

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

Our full article on the British Airways pilots pay deal is here.

Unite is now effectively admitting that its strategy of refusing to negotiate with British Airways has failed.  Asking the airline to give cabin crew the same deal that was negotiated by BALPA is an admission that a deal could have been cut but wasn’t.  Many people are now paying for that decision with their careers.

PS.  There is another point, of course.  Would cabin crew share Len McCluskey’s enthusiasm for the BALPA deal?  It seems unlikely that cabin crew, especially Mixed Fleet with base salaries of around £15,000, would voluntarily take an 8% pay cut and contribute a further 8% to a pot to pay non-working colleagues.  The pilot’s deal is also believed to have an element of ‘last in, first out’ which means that cabin crew redundancies would fall disproportionately on Mixed Fleet.

Comments (120)

  • chris says:

    As an ex ( 80s and 90s) chairman of BASSA ,Regional Committee member (South East England) and General Executive Council member (T&GWU and Unite) ,a coalition of left and right fought ling and hard to defeat the ‘Liverpool Mafia.’
    Time passed and ultimately we failed,as can be seen.
    If you think cronyism is alive and well in the Tory party,this lot make them look like rank amateurs.
    The day McCluskey stated that cabin crew/BASSA would not engage with the employer was the day their goose was well and truly cooked..

  • TimM says:

    This is a little like the miner’s strike of the 80’s. Decisions were taken a long time before any crisis – years before. BA was gifted Covid on a plate to justify implementing what it was already going to do. Unite merely inadvertently cooperated.

    Just as with the miners, BA cabin crew have been lining up to take voluntary redundancy pay-offs because they were told the compulsory redundancy pay-off would be far less. This coercive behaviour should be made illegal, once and for all.

    All this occurs in a period when it looks like foreign travel will return to being a luxury of the rich and quality over density will matter. IAG is racing to the bottom at exactly the time when it could taken advantage of its former reputation and competed with the best.

    How long will it be before BA are employing the globally cheapest migrant workers who sleep in cupboards at the airport and survive on gruel?

    • AJA says:

      Oh dear. Covid-19 isn’t some dastardly plot dreamed up by BA to cull staff numbers. Voluntary Redundancy is always higher than Statutory Redundancy. There is no coercive behaviour forcing staff to accept VR. You appear to assume that travel will become more expensive ignoring the likes of EasyJet and Ryanair. For BA and other airlines who operate business class and first class cabins quality has always mattered over density despite BA actually having the most densified business class since these cabins are the revenue earners but they still have significant numbers of economy class seats in their aircraft. The trouble is that until an effective vaccine is developed the numbers travelling will be significantly down as has been demonstrated over the last 6 months. BA is doing what it deems necessary to survive. Arguing that BA will employ migrant workers sleeping in cupboards at the airport is the most ridiculous statement in a bunch of other ridiculous statements.

      • memesweeper says:

        > BA is doing what it deems necessary to survive

        Perhaps, but @TimM is correct that this was planned (or at the very least desired) before COVID hit. BA have adopted Churchill’s guidance to “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

      • Doug M says:

        Surely VR offering more than SR is blatant coercive behaviour.

        • Might be coercive but it is perfectly normal, most organisations (public & private sector) do it.

        • the_real_a says:

          Not really – there are always large numbers of people in any organisation who are ready to leave/unhappy. People who are close to retirement, people looking to to spend more time with families, people going traveling/gap years. Anytime I’ve dealt with this in the real world i have always been surprised with those who want to take the cash and run.

          • Chris Heyes says:

            [email protected] Yes your correct there will always be employees who are willing to leave/unhappy ect
            I Was one of those i decided at 20 i wasn’t going to work after 50 (my farther retired at 55 granddad 60) I was determined to beat them lol
            In fact i started planning to retire on my 50th Birthday (no matter what)
            With careful planing and saving plus lucky investments on my 50th I retired with everything paid
            Very happy 22 years retirement
            i was never unhappy at work at all, but work to live, not live to work (never worked any overtime ever)

        • Sussex Bantam says:

          VR is always higher than SR. By definition it cannot be lower…

        • AJA says:

          No.it’s not coercive. VR is often at a higher rate than SR to encourage you to take it but you are not forced to take VR – the clue is in the V standing for Voluntary.which is defined as “done, given, or acting of one’s own free will.” You choose to take VR. Statutory Redundancy, on the other hand, can be forced upon you and unless you can prove that it was discriminatory or unfair you can’t fight it.

          • Lady London says:

            Not much VR I’ve seen in my life is V. It’s compulsory called by another name regardless of what the offer is.

          • Doug M says:

            @LL – exactly. Voluntary in name alone.

      • Paul says:

        Delusional, the idea that BA F/J has been a quality product in the last 15 years is risible.

        Covid was not dreamt up by BA but they were prepared for a major downturn. They have always used crisis for their benefit but never before did they have combination of circumstances and the way chest as they did this time.

        After 9/11 the bullied managers into taking pay cuts only for the situation to spiral out of control when colleagues who took the cuts discovered they were working for bosses who did not. So yes BA have used Covid to their benefit. The manner they have gone about it is legal but morally reprehensible. I still think there is a need for labour reform reform and employment protection.

  • James says:

    Off topic: can I cancel my BAPP the moment I receive the “Congratulations Dear Mr XXX, your Companion Voucher is here” email knowing that I will be able to use it when I want to (intending to keep my green Amex charge card) to pay the fees when booking?

  • demi says:

    Mcclusky and his side kick are a joke they sold the cabin crew all three fleets down the river not for the 1st time and then in the last minutes they change there mind and say fill in the forms when it’s too LATE, and when they realised that they got it wrong they tried to jump on the band wagon with Balpa, you should have sat down yourself and did negotiations or doesn’t he know how to do that. And now what ask the staff who are left to go on strike. Mcclusky you helped no one but yourself you should ask yourself did they take redundancy because of B.A or because of the useless representation of there UNION, also how many will cancel there membership 🤔 after this fiasco.

  • Supersub says:

    What a car crash. McCluskey has overplayed his hand yet again.
    He’s an embarrassment to anyone who cares about “the workers”.

  • Chris says:

    Except Unite DID try to negotiate. They didn’t have to the demands of BA, which would’ve meant a majority of the staff would be fired and rehired with much lower pay.

    That is not the same as refusing to negotiate.

    This entire article is a propaganda piece for BA, to make the douchebags look like the ones that care.

    • Rob says:

      The bottom line is that pilots got a deal which saved hundreds of jobs and crew didn’t. Nothing wrong with Unite’s stance of not negotiating – it’s the bit where Len is now crawling to Alex and begging for the pilots deal that I find pathetic.

  • Paul Pogba says:

    This is the same Unite and Len McClusky that thinks payouts to Labour whistleblowers are a “huge miscalculation” and an abuse of his members donations? Never interfere with the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself.

    • mark2 says:

      That reminds me that allegedly there was a plan to bomb Hiltler, but it was decided that it was in the interests of the Allies to keep him in place.

  • mark2 says:

    Len McCluskey has handled this very badly.
    I wonder how many of the cabin crew affected voted for him at the last leadership election or (worse) did not bother to vote.