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From The Socialist newspaper, 6 May 2020

Nationalise British Airways to stop 12,000 redundancies

British Airways

British Airways   (Click to enlarge)

British Airways worker

British Airways' announcement of 12,000 redundancies represents an opportunistic attack on its workforce. The British Airways/International Airline Group board are firm believers in the neoliberal view of never allowing a crisis to be wasted.

In addition to the redundancies, the airline is threatening to dismiss the whole workforce and 'invite' up to 75% of its employees to reapply, accepting new contracts which have worse pay and poorer terms and conditions.

To be clear, this is not a move from the company driven by economic necessity - International Airline Group is sitting on a cash pile and credit lines to the tune of 10 billion plus. Those cash reserves could easily see the company through to 2022.

International Airline Group has accepted a government bailout in Spain, but campaigns for no industry help in the UK. The company clearly hopes its competitors will go to the wall and it will emerge from this crisis with a lower cost base, ensuring monopolistic profits for its shareholders.

The airline has shown no empathy for its workforce in a time of pandemic. It insisted its frontline employees continued to work without PPE, resulting in the tragic death of flying crew and ground staff.

It equally shows no feeling for the present situation, where every family is struggling with anxiety and loss due to the pandemic. Although this looks like a devastating announcement, and individual workers sitting at home furloughed, and isolated are unable to feel their collective strength, resistance to all these proposals is possible.

This would be the first time in the airline's history that the management attempted to take on the whole workforce. As long as we act collectively and negotiate at a national level the workforce will see off this challenge. It is not a simple matter to dismiss everybody and reconstitute a new airline without the cooperation of the workforce.

Given that half the workforce is furloughed, it shows how many sections are still required to operate in order to maintain the grounded fleet. Customer relations are still dealing with millions of customer requests for refunds or rebookings; and engineering is still 'mothballing' the planes which have to be regularly checked in order to keep their airworthiness.

Although British Airways' operation has been consolidated into Heathrow Terminal 5, we are still flying 20 to 30 flights a day which require all the operational functions. In addition, there are unprecedented levels of cargo it is trying to get onto a limited schedule. Postal bags, for instance, have been going into overhead lockers. There is considerable IT infrastructure that needs to be supported while we are flying at least one aircraft.

Unite and the GMB unions are launching a legal challenge. British Airways is taking part in the job retention scheme, known as furloughing, while it announces, with considerable brass neck its intention to implement redundancies. Part of the furloughing arrangement is that workers are not contacted by their employer. This means it would be impossible to have meaningful consultation, which breaks the law.

British Airways would like the different sections of its workforce - cabin crew, pilots, ground services, engineering and head office - to negotiate separately on the company's proposals. This must not happen. We need to engage collectively at a national level, not allowing any section to be picked off, and demand that all UK operations are nationalised to save jobs.

The anger of the workforce must now be channelled into a determination to resist this brutal smash and grab on employees pay, and terms and conditions. Together we can resist and win.

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In The Socialist 6 May 2020:


What we think

Bosses push to lift lockdown - they only care about profits


Coronavirus news

Dispatches from the NHS front

Bail out the real wealth creators, not the rich

Homes needed to end overcrowding

Homeless left on streets during pandemic

Pay full fees for virtual courses? - No way!

Them&Us

Your donations can keep the Socialist going


Test and trace

Test and trace: workers need a real plan

Tories using pandemic to shift lab testing out of NHS


Workplace news

Nationalise British Airways to stop 12,000 redundancies

Postal workers force Royal Mail back

No increase in transport capacity without adequate safety precautions for workers and passengers

Unsafe Workplace? "It's up to you" PCS tells reps and members

Further protests in Ireland against Debenhams closures - UK fightback needed

Rolls Royce threatens 8,000 job losses

EDF Energy workers furloughed on 100% pay


International news

India: Fighting the curse of capitalism and coronavirus

US: Trump's public health cuts have condemned thousands worldwide

Trump puts profit before safety (again)


Lessons from history

The Tyneside apprentices' strike during WW2


Obituary

Peter Hadden remembered


Readers' opinion

Going viral: Socialist comments and letters on the corona crisis

TV Review BBC Panorama: PPE shortage - how many lives will be lost?


 

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