British Airways Reaches Deal To Furlough 30,000 Employees

 - April 2, 2020, 2:07 PM
Ground workers prepare a BA CityFlyer Embraer 190 for arrival at London City Airport, which is now closed until the end of April. (Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons (BY) by fvfavo)

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

British Airways on Thursday reached an agreement with trade unions GMB and Unite to furlough more than 30,000 cabin crew and ground-based employees in April and May under the terms of a “modified” version of the UK’s Covid-19 Job Retention Scheme. Under the program, furloughed employees will receive 80 percent of their base pay and “certain allowances.” The agreement remains subject to union ratification.

Unlike the government plan, the BA deal places no cap on earnings. It also will allow workers to divert pension contributions into their pay for what the Unite union characterized as a short period of time. The deal also guarantees no unpaid temporary layoffs or redundancies and halts a redundancy process BA already had begun.

In a statement, Unite welcomed the agreement. “Given the incredibly difficult circumstances that the entire aviation sector is facing, this is as good a deal as possible for our members,” said the union’s national officer for aviation, Oliver Richardson. “The deal protects the jobs of BA staff and, as far as possible, also protects their pay.”

For its part, the GMB union called the agreement “a relief” for the airline’s 30,000 furloughed workers. “GMB members working for BA are relieved to finally be nearing some sort of certainty after what has been an extremely worrying time,” said GMB national officer Nadine Houghton. "GMB was at the forefront of campaigning for the people’s bailout package, which has formed the basis of ongoing negotiations with BA. GMB and our sister union Unite have fought hard to secure members' terms, conditions, and job security. We believe the current deal, which is nearing its conclusion, secures this.”

Separately, British Airways has also reached an agreement with its 4,000 pilots to take four weeks of unpaid leave in April and May.

BA parent company IAG’s other airlines have received support from similar job retention and wage support schemes for more than 17,000 employees in Spain and seek similar support in Ireland.

IAG on Thursday also said it has decided to reduce capacity beyond its March 16 plan of some 75 percent to an approximate 90 percent reduction in April and May compared with the same months last year.