British Airways is reportedly preparing to fire all its flight attendants, then rehire up to 75% of them at dramatically reduced pay.
A note shared by flight attendant Hannah Chapman on Facebook details British Airways’ intentions:
“On 15th June, I will be made redundant from the job I love after 15 years of loyal service. Redundancy notices are to be issued to 43,000 of my colleagues: the entire workforce. Yep, you heard right!
“31,000 “lucky” former employees will then be offered re-employement on a far inferior contract that the company has wanted to enforce since 2010. For me, this would represent a 60% pay cut. Again, you heard right!”
I won’t go into too much detail, but British Airways flight attendants are under three different contracts; one for shorthaul travel, one for longhaul travel, and a “mixed fleet” contract that was the result of BA’s last labor war in 2010. The “mixed fleet” crew is paid significantly less.
BA wants to fire all flight attendants, then rehire them at rates lower than the “mixed fleet crew” even makes. How much? £24,000/year for cabin crew and £32,000/year for cabin managers, according to One Mile at a Time. That includes per diem, which must be at least partially spent during layovers.
The new pay rates would represent a 50-75% drop for many senior crewmembers.
British Airways would not deny the letter, telling the UK Mirror:
“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.
“We are committed to consulting openly with our unions and our people as we prepare for a new future.”
Should British Airways Fire Flight Attendants? A Very Difficult Issue To Grapple With
I’m going to save my personal opinion on this for another post, because I am still formulating it. I welcome your thoughts below.
Part of me thinks it is grossly immoral to look someone in the eye who has given you 30 years of professional life and now say you must quit or take a huge paycut. The impact is huge: homes will have to be sold, children will have to go into student debt, and quality of life will be greatly diminished. It’s sad. Historically, flight attendants give up so much during bad times and receive so little back when times are good.
But is it wrong? Set aside the obscene compensation for top management for just a second. If tens of thousands would gladly take a job at £24,000/year (your odds of going to Yale or Harvard are better than becoming a flight attendant), then why isn’t there more downward pressure on pay? If you have so many people chasing so few positions, doesn’t it just make sense to hire those willing to do the same work for much less?
But the issue is even more complicated. As View from the Wing notes, British Airways received its Heathrow slots for free. Perhaps taking those back and putting those up for auction would give BA a taste of its own medicine. Perhaps the corporate socialism in the form of the £300 million low-interest loan BA just received from UK taxpayers is exhibit A that British Airways wants to have its cake and eat it too.
And more fundamentally, does British Airways want to build an airline based upon a revolving door of flight attendants who stay a few years for the glamour of it then find other work that pays better? Is there not great merit to longevity, when accompanied by performance standards?
Anyway, I’m still thinking through my own thoughts on this issue, but do want the whole world to see how British Airways is treating its cabin crews.
What are your thoughts on the coming labor war at British Airways?
image: British Airways