Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 17, May 2, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers' Movement

Vehement Response to Airlines' Announcement of Mass Sackings

The brutal nature of the monopolies and oligarchies was once more exposed with the announcement of mass sackings in the airline industry. As is also beginning to happen across the manufacturing industries, whether it is the call to restart production despite the obvious threats to the safety and health of the workers, or of the announcement of mass redundancies as was feared from the get-go of the lockdown, these private interests think they can dictate to the workers, despite legalities or illegalities. This flies in the face not only of the rights and interests of the workers concerned, but of the good of the economy as a whole, which these businesses claim to have concern for. In the end, it is the private interests which are determined to serve only their own vested interests, determined that they are the ones that must be competitive in the global market. And the government stands idly by while issuing platitudes. It is clear that the workers and their organisations are the ones not only taking a stand to defend their rights and dignity, but are pointing the way towards how society must be run in the future: definitely not "business as usual".

BA Mass Sackings

British Airways announced unilaterally on April 28 without any consultation that it is to make 12,000 workers at the airline redundant. It was immediately denounced as unlawful and immoral by the workers and their unions. They demand that the threat of redundancies must be immediately withdrawn.

Unite the union said that the unilateral decision to abandon the principles and intent of the job retention scheme and instead make workers redundant undermines the work that the union and the industry have been doing with government to secure a financial package and strategy for the entire sector spanning airlines, airports and air traffic control, as well as addressing industry-related environmental concerns.

Unite said that the sheer scale of the job losses, which will see a quarter of the airline's workforce sacked, will also make the UK aviation sector, already very fragile as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, extremely unstable putting many thousands more jobs across the country, not just at BA, at risk.

Unite demanded that the airline withdrawn the redundancy notices and engage with government and the union to take forward the sector-wide aviation rescue plan currently under discussion.

General secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, said that BA's decision to ignore the principle and intent of the job retention scheme and instead throw 12,000 workers onto the scrap heap is unlawful "because they are denying these workers the meaningful consultation that the law and common decency says that they are owed". "It is immoral," he said, "because BA has been taking taxpayers' money in recent weeks, money supplied on the proviso that the company put the workers on furlough while the industry reshaped. Instead, BA has taken a unilateral and selfish action that could imperil an already very fragile aviation industry - and so a great many jobs - in this country."

The government had been handing over public money to BA, and instead of continuing discussing with anyone it is intent on tearing up agreements, and wrecking the lives of working people and the economy as a whole. In this context, Len McCluskey said: "We say to BA that there is a better way forward for both it and the industry. We urge it to think again. I therefore call on BA to honour the law, remove this threat of redundancy today and join with us to work with the government and aviation industry to deliver the rescue package so desperately needed by the whole sector."

Unite reports that Len McCluskey has written to chancellor Rishi Sunak and transport secretary Grant Shapps setting out what steps Unite believes need to be taken to secure the long-term viability of the UK aviation industry.

GMB is the union for British Airways ground staff. Nadine Houghton, GMB National Officer, said of the mass sackings: "We believed we had reached some relative, albeit temporary, respite for them following the agreement to furlough 80% of BA's staff now this. I know our reps will work day and night to limit the impact on our members but 12,000 employees is a staggering number."

Ryanair Redundancies Announcement

Ryanair announced on May 1 that it is planning to make 3,000 of its workers in Europe redundant and is also planning pay cuts for employees.

In response, Unite national officer for aviation Oliver Richardson said: "This is another premature announcement, especially while the government's job retention scheme remains fully up and running. Ryanair has significant cash reserves and is in a better place than many airlines to cope with the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has created."

Oliver Richardson continued: "The statement by Ryanair, which follows hot on the heels of the British Airways announcement, further underlines why it is absolutely imperative that the UK works with all relevant stakeholders to provide long-term financial assistance for the aviation sector. If the government fails to provide such assistance, which is already being offered by other European countries to their airlines, then the UK aviation sector faces a very bleak future."

Pilots' Union Issues Distress Call

BALPA, the pilots' union, said that enforced travel restrictions as a result of coronavirus were already having a devastating impact on aviation. It pointed out that over 230,000 workers are employed in the aviation industry.

BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said: "Before coronavirus the UK aviation industry was world leading. But now aviation workers are facing a tsunami of job losses. There is no more time for delay. The UK Government should follow the example set by others in Europe and around the world, recognise that aviation is vital to the UK economy and keep to the promise made by the Chancellor on March 17 to help airlines."

Brian Strutton also said: "BALPA does not accept that a case has been made for these job losses and we will be fighting to save every single one."


Link to Full Issue of Workers' Weekly

RCPB(ML) Home Page

Workers' Weekly Online Archive