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British Airways faces ‘immediate’ strike threat from Unite union

British Airways today faced an ‘immediate’ strike threat from union bosses over job cuts amid fears over further travel chaos to families trying to plan a holiday abroad.

Unite leader Len McCluskey claimed BA chief executive Alex Cruz had ‘published a timetable to fire and rehire thousands of your workforce on August 7’.

Mr McCluskey also told how MPs and newspapers alike have condemned the actions of the Spanish boss, adding: ‘Perhaps you don’t understand that the British sense of fair play runs deep in the psyche of the British people.’

It comes as the UK Government advised against all but essential travel to Spain after the emergence of a second wave of coronavirus in parts of the country. 

BA has so far used state furlough schemes, accessed £300million of UK Government loans and retired its fleet of 747 jumbo jets earlier than planned.

The carrier, owned by International Airlines Group, has also gone on a huge job-cutting plan, having originally said it would axe up to 12,000 roles.

It struck a deal with its pilots union last week to make fewer people redundant – 270 down from plans for 1,250 redundancies – in return for other staff taking pay cuts. 

However, sources close to the airline said it was false to say all BA staff face dismissal or will have to sign a new contract from August 7. 

In the letter released yesterday, Mr McCluskey said he had himself received a letter from Mr Cruz on Sunday but was ‘both staggered and offended’ by his arrogance.

The union boss wrote: ‘In the opening paragraph you state “it has taken this long for you to realise and accept this”.

‘This reference infers that I am only now understanding the financial difficulties that British Airways face. How dare you suggest such a thing. 

‘I have attempted for months to try to get you to understand the need to treat your workers with respect and dignity and this is the only way to get through this pandemic together.

‘It is your staff, not you, that have for many years, built the good name of British Airways and contributed billions of pounds to its profitability year on year.’

Mr McCluskey added that Mr Cruz and his management team had ‘dragged the good name of British Airways through the mud’.

The union leader continued: ‘Have you ever asked yourself why so many MPs from all parties, at the highest level, have condemned British Airways or why newspaper and media outlets have been appalled at your actions?

‘Perhaps you don’t understand that the British sense of fair play runs deep in the psyche of the British people.’

Mr McCluskey added: ‘My shop stewards and reps speak to members constantly, dealing with the stress, anxiety and heart ache caused by your management style and strategy.

‘Instead of criticising Unite reps, you should actually listen to them, instead of pretending to do so in order that you can tick some consultative process box and you might, at long last, realise that the only way to have a lasting peace and avoid months/years of industrial unrest is to work with us to achieve an acceptable way forward.

‘You have now published a timetable to fire and rehire thousands of your workforce on August 7. We will work every hour between now and then, to convince you not to do so.

‘You can take this letter as our commitment to do that. However, you can also take this an intention to defend our members by moving towards industrial action with immediate effect.’

BA is currently operating 15 per cent of its normal schedule and losing £20million a day, with two of its biggest markets, the US and India, effectively closed. 

A BA spokesman told MailOnline today: ‘For more than 100 years British Airways has been flying millions of people around the world. Today that world remains largely closed.

‘This is the biggest challenge the airline and our industry has ever faced. Sadly, the global pandemic has resulted in job losses across every industry. Many airlines have already made thousands of staff redundant.

‘We are not immune to this crisis. We have to adapt to survive, so we will continue with the proper, lawful consultative process and we will keep inviting union representatives to discuss our proposals to the serious challenges we face. 

‘It is not too late to find solutions – as we have done with Balpa (British Airline Pilots Association) – and to protect jobs.’

It comes after £1.5billion was wiped off the value of Britain’s leading travel companies yesterday as quarantine chaos and fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections shook markets.

Investors dropped shares in airlines and tour operators after the Government removed Spain from the quarantine-free list with just a few hours’ notice.

Thousands of holidaymakers cancelled trips to Spain as well as countries such as France and Germany amid concerns they could be next.

At the same time Ryanair sounded the alarm over a deadly second wave hitting later this year during the flu season.

IAG fell 5.9 per cent, Ryanair was down 3.9 per cent, Easyjet lost 8 per cent, Jet 2 owner Dart dropped 8.5 per cent and Wizz Air sank 4.5 per cent.

At the same time, Britain’s biggest tour operator Tui fell 11.4 per cent lower while cruise operator Carnival fell 8.4 per cent.

IAG has lost around 70 per cent of its value on the stock market this year, while Tui has lost 68 per cent, Easyjet 62 per cent and Ryanair 28 per cent.

The pandemic came at a time the industry was already strained due to concerns over fierce competition and low consumer confidence.

In March regional carrier Flybe went bust and in September last year Thomas Cook collapsed stranding 150,000 UK holidaymakers abroad. 

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