British Airways Threatens To Lay Off All 4,300 Pilots If Union Won’t Agree To Concessions

British Airways is in another round of battles with pilots, demanding additional concessions from the pilot union to be able to cut a further 125 jobs or they will fire all pilots at once and re-hire at individual contracts.

The carrier is already seeking to reduce their pilot workforce by 1,130 positions and these 125 further cuts BA demands would be in addition to this number.

Like most if not all carriers British Airways will have to dramatically downsize for the next few years in order to reflect customer demand and not go bust due to excessive labor, maintenance and other operational cost.

Bloomberg reported today that British Airways is now upping the ante by threatening to fire everyone.

British Airways warned its pilots union that it would dismiss all of the company’s 4,300 pilots and rehire them on individual contracts unless the union reached an agreement with the carrier.

The airline, which is negotiating a planned reduction of 1,130 roles represented by the Balpa union, sought another 125 pilot jobs on Wednesday, the union said in an email.

“This has seriously undermined our talks which now hang by a thread,” Brian Strutton, the general secretary of the union, said in an email. “It calls into question whether BA is even capable of conducting industrial relations properly and whether anything they say can be trusted.”

A spokesperson for the airline, which is working on cutting 12,000 jobs across the company, said in an email it’s “acting now to protect as many jobs possible,” adding that “the airline industry is facing the deepest structural change in its history, as well as facing a severely weakened global economy.” …

In a letter to employees seen by Bloomberg, British Airways Chief Executive Officer Alex Cruz said the carrier group was burning 178 million pounds a week without any revenue coming in, forcing it to preserve cash. He also wrote that debt taken on would have to be repaid over a short term, so sales that are generated following a return to flying are swallowed up.

The carrier is also concerned that U.K.’s 14-day self-isolation plan for incoming flyers, due to begin Monday, would delay their plans to restart services in July.

We’ve covered the disputes between British Airways and the unions frequently over the years even before Covid-19 and to say their relationship is contentious would be the understatement of the century.

We all remember the pilot strikes that have been disrupting peoples holiday travel plans and caused scheduling chaos throughout the network. That was at a time where lots of pilots were actually needed and they had the company in the palm of their hands. Well look how the tables have turned right now!

Late April British Airways announced they would lay off 12,000 staff overall throughout the company (John wrote about it here) and unions have since began a full scale PR campaign against the airline which will likely not have much result as the new reality is that the company is way too big for the demand that is to be expected in the next 18-24 months.

Conclusion

British Airways under it’s current management which includes Alex Cruz for BA and Willie Walsh for IAG has been on a cut throat mission to get costs down after Covid-19 threatened not only the bottom line but also the long term existence of the airline despite their relatively healthy cash reserves. An airline burns through cash really quick when business is lacking.

Would BA really go ahead and fire all their 4,300 pilots and then see who shows up to sign a new contract at much worse conditions? Maybe. At least I wouldn’t put it beyond them to try and get away with it. At the same time I also think that most pilots would actually sign a contract almost immediately given the surplus of pilots on the market in times where almost every airline is forced to downsize for some years to come.

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