MPs have described British Airways’ plans to make at least 12,000 staff redundant, despite taking Government furlough money, as ‘a national disgrace’.
The Transport Select Committee said that UK-based airlines and other aviation employers should not ‘proceed hastily’ with large scale redundancies and restructuring to employees’ terms and conditions until the Job Retention Scheme ends in October 2020 and they have had the opportunity to consider the Government’s plans to help the sector restart and recover.
However, MPs said that several aviation companies have announced redundancies, despite accessing the scheme, singling out BA and parent company International Airlines Group IAG) for particular criticism.
They said: ‘The committee’s view is that BA’s current consultation on staffing changes is a calculated attempt to take advantage of the pandemic to cut 12,000 jobs and to downgrade the terms and conditions of approximately 35,000 employees.’
Committee chair Huw Merriman MP, 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.
‘We looked closely at BA’s plans to consult on at least 12000 redundancies and change the terms and conditions of the bulk of its employees. 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.’
In an article for The Mail on Sunday, IAG boss Alex Cruz defended its plans, claiming that BA has to go through a 'painful' restructuring to survive the aviation industry's biggest-ever crisis.
MPs said the introduction of a 14-day blanket quarantine for travellers to the UK from other countries will damage the recovery of the sector and the wider economy. They said that ‘should the conditions allow’, the policy should be abandoned when it is next reviewed later this month and urged the Government to introduce ‘a more flexible and risk-based approach to border control, using alternatives such as targeted quarantines, air bridges and temperature screening’.
BA, easyjet and Ryanair confirmed last week that they are mounting a legal challenge to the quarantine rules.
Summing up the Government’s strategy for aviation four months into the crisis, MPs said it ‘should be more developed’. To stimulate demand and protect businesses, the committee recommended a temporary six month suspension of Air Passenger Duty payments and 12 month business rates relief for airlines and airports across the UK, as is currently the case in Scotland.