The chief executive of British Airways (BA) owner IAG has hit back at MPs after a report from the transport select committee labelled the UK’s flag carrier a “national disgrace”.
Tensions between lawmakers and the airline have become inflamed over BA’s plans to make 12,000 of its staff redundant during the coronavirus crisis.
The report found that BA’s actions were 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”.
However, in a letter this evening to committee chair Huw Merriman, IAG chief Willie Walsh rejected the paper’s findings.
You made clear several weeks ago that the report would be “fuelled by the kind and impassioned messages” you received, rather than the facts”, he wrote. “The facts, however, are clear”.
Walsh said that the carrier was acting legally in its use of so-called “fire and rehire” tactics to renegotiate the roles of its remaining 30,000 staff.
He wrote: “Much of your criticism is based on concerns that British Airways wishes to change terms and conditions to save jobs.
“British Airways is, at this stage, only proposing changes that it wishes to consult over with a view to seeking an agreement, as required by the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992”.
Walsh added that in 2010’s High Court proceedings against BA union Unite’s legal counsel had admitted that the approach was “perfectly lawful”.
SNP MP Gavin Newlands last week proposed an emergency bill to outlaw the controversial tactics.
He suggested that BA’s workers had been “betrayed by their trade union representatives”, who have not met with the firm over the consultation.
Neither Unite or GMB have yet met with the airline.
Walsh added that it was clear that the UK government was not going to take steps to help restart the sector, citing the 14-day quarantine as an example.
He finished: “British Airways is fighting for its survival, in the face of overwhelming and unprecedented challenges, while respecting the fundamental British value of the rule of law. This is not a disgrace”.