Unite, Britain's biggest union, has denounced British Airways executives for trying to "impose" contractual changes on 14,000 cabin crew employees and "introduce a second tier workforce on poorer pay and conditions."
Hit by the slump in business class travel, the airline posted record losses of £401m last year, and £148m for the first quarter of this year, prompting its chief executive, Willie Walsh, to say it was in a "fight for survival."
Unite has told the airline it risks strike action if it pushes ahead with its plans. Steve Turner, Unite national officer for aviation, said:
"BA's conduct is completely unacceptable. It is a disgraceful attempt to intimidate workers into accepting poorer contracts. BA must step back from the brink and get back round the table to talk.
"In three days of talks last week at Acas, BA categorically refused to talk about these plans. They conducted themselves in bad faith then and are doing so again now.
"BA should be under no illusion; Unite will vigorously defend BA's loyal staff and its customer base and will not see standards driven into the ground by this management team.
"BA's continued determination to mimic the no-frills end of the industry will cause despair for customers who pay a premium price and expect a premium service in return.
"Cabin crew are the heart and soul of that premium service and are dearly valued by the customers for their professionalism and dedication, yet now they are being presented with an impossible choice - cut the service and do more for less, or lose their jobs."
Brian Boyd, Unite national officer added:
"Unite and cabin crew members have said all along we want to negotiate a shared solution to the short-term financial problems facing BA. Earlier this year, we tabled changes amounting to £140m in efficiency savings. These could have been banked months ago, putting cash into the business while retaining the airline's integrity and good industrial relations, but they were dismissed out of hand by BA's management."
Unite says if the plans announced this week are implemented, cabin crew should expect extended working hours, redundancies, the loss of career opportunities and new starters rought in at "bargain basement wages." The union believes this which will inevitably damage customer service and hurt the brand, "possibly leaving it beyond repair."
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