BA tells longest-serving cabin crew to take 20% pay cut or lose jobs

British Airways has told its longest-serving cabin crew they will have to take a 20% basic pay cut and change working patterns if they are to be retained, as it prepares to lay off up to 30% of its workforce.

The proposal comes almost two months after BA notified unions of plans to lay off 12,000 staff after coronavirus grounded almost all passenger flights.

All cabin crew would have to apply for jobs in BA’s mixed fleet, a unit set up during a bitter strike a decade ago. Given that cabin crew salaries are largely made up of flight pay and allowances, many are likely to see their overall earnings reduced by much more than 20%.

Talks are continuing with the pilots’ trade union Balpa over a voluntary redundancy deal. No offer has yet been put to ground staff. BA says no unions other than Balpa have turned up to talks, despite meetings scheduled almost daily since the airline announced plans to cut jobs and change contracts.

MPs on the transport select committee described the UK’s flag carrier a national disgrace for considering moves to fire all staff and put up to 30,000 remaining employees on new contracts. In a report earlier this month the committee accused BA of making “a calculated attempt to take advantage of the pandemic”.

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of BA’s parent company, IAG, Willie Walsh, said he “formally rejected the findings” and that BA was consulting about proposed changes in full compliance with the law, as unions had demanded in earlier disputes.

BA flew only 485 passenger flights in May, the same number it flew in half a day in May 2019. The airline is believed to have been burning £20m a day while the vast majority of its fleet has been grounded.

A BA spokeswoman said: “We are acting now to protect as many jobs possible. The airline industry is facing the deepest structural change in its history, as well as facing a severely weakened global economy.”

Carriers have taken drastic action after the pandemic grounded most flights grounded in late March. Many countries still restricting international travel, and airlines’ revenues have been wiped out. Several say they do not expect to recover until at least 2023, even if flights are swiftly restored.

BA’s rivals in the UK are are expecting to lay off a similar proportion of their workforce. EasyJet announced up to 4,500 job losses last month, Virgin Atlantic expects to lay off around 3,000 staff and Ryanair has said it will cut 3,000 jobs and reduce staff pay by 20%.