The statement from Unite comes after British Airways parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) warned that up to 12,000 jobs may be cut as the airline seeks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, Unite General Secretary Len McClusky said “This devastating announcement comes on the day that BA staff joined together to lay to rest one of their own, a long-standing and much loved cabin crew member who tragically died from the coronavirus contracted while carrying out his duties bringing home loved ones from overseas to reunite concerned families. This announcement will be felt as the stab in the back it undoubtedly is by the close knit BA family.
“We say to BA’s boss Alex Cruz that this is a heartless decision in a time of national crisis. With the majority of BA’s workers on furlough, we would have expected him to work with both us and the government to honour the spirit of the government’s job retention scheme.
“Governments across Europe, in Spain, Germany and France are working with trade unions and airlines to rebuild back better, keeping people in work while the sector recovers. We simply cannot understand as to why Alex Cruz is not doing the same, unless he has sought an opportunity to see other airlines fail, so that BA can profit.
“To reject government support but then expect their own staff to pay the cost of such a misjudgement, is irresponsible, dangerous and destructive and is utterly at odds with the mood of the country at a time of crisis.
“Creating unemployment is a conscious choice by an employer, not an inevitability.“
British Airways furloughed around a quarter of of its 42,000 staff eaerlier this month but rather than using the Government’s job retention scheme it used a modified version which saw staff paid 100% of their wages.
Many staff are still working on repatriation flights for the airline and there have been complaints about lack of protection from the airline.
Mr McClusky added: “This workforce has worked tirelessly, heroically and unnoticed throughout this crisis, in dangerous circumstances on the global transport frontline. A repatriation flight is without doubt rife with risk with the potential exposure of airline crew and staff. In recent weeks, they have played their part, with many volunteering for rescue flights, regardless of their own safety and often with little or no PPE equipment to help distressed UK citizens come home to their loved ones.
“They simply do not deserve to be treated as a commodity to be disposed of in this way. Unite values their sacrifice, as do the families that they have brought together and can be assured that their union will not tolerate this indecent mistreatment of these brave men and women.
“This industry must pull together or many more working people will suffer the same fate as these 12,000 BA workers.”
The union representing pilots, British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) also reacted angrily to the news.
General Secretary Brian Strutton said “BA pilots and all staff are devastated by the announcement of up to 12,000 possible job losses in British Airways.
“This has come as a bolt out of the blue from an airline that said it was wealthy enough to weather the COVID storm and declined any Government support. BALPA does not accept that a case has been made for these job losses and we will be fighting to save every single one.“