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Carriers Accused Of Using Pandemic As Ruse To Shed Staff

Carriers Accused Of Using Pandemic As Ruse To Shed Staff
Jackie Reddy

A host of labor groups representing employees within Britain’s airline and aviation industry have accused companies within the sector of using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to get rid of staff, explains The Independent.

Taking Advantage Of Pandemic Or Fighting To Survive?

The outlet reports that Diana Holland, the assistant general secretary for transport for Unite, told a committee in the British House of Commons on Wednesday that this was especially the case for more highly-paid and long-serving legacy staff. Unite currently represents thousands of workers at British Airways (BA), which announced plans to cut 12,000 staff late last month.

She added, “This is taking advantage of a very difficult situation to push through something that is totally unacceptable.” Speaking on behalf of crew members represented by Unite, Holland revealed that 93 percent were dealing with anxiety as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic upon their employment.

Offering comment on behalf of the airline, a spokesperson for BA was quoted by the outlet as saying, “We are acting now to protect as many jobs [as] 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,” they added.

Offering a further insight from within the sector, the outlet reports that Jason Holt, Swissport UK’s chief executive for Western Europe, told the parliamentary committee that the cuts were necessary.

“This is a fight for survival. We are hand to mouth and we are running out of cash…We don’t need bail-outs. We need cash-flow assistance,” he said.

The Call For State Help To Navigate Through Unprecedented Times

Holt added, “If the government remains asleep at the wheel, and our competitors in other parts of Europe – France, Germany and elsewhere – will shoot past us as we head towards a car crash. If we go bust, it will take many, many years for the aviation sector – which is the pride of the European skies – to get back on its feet.”

Brian Strutton, the general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), was blunt in his assessment of the situation, telling the committee, “Airlines are exaggerating the problem. We’re in a trough at the moment. We will be coming out of it in the next two-and-a-half years, and airlines are egging the pudding too much to take advantage of the crisis, to make changes and downsize their workforce.”

He added, “This is an opportunistic land-grab by some of these airlines exploiting this situation.”

Speaking on the proceedings, aviation minister Kelly Tolhurst was quoted as saying, “We are in unprecedented times. We are working internationally with our neighbors who are facing some of the same challenges that we are.”

She added, “We haven’t been asleep at the wheel.”

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