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UK Top News

UK pilots union welcomes 'fire and rehire' debate in clash with BA

FILE PHOTO: A British Airways passenger plane comes in to land at London Heathrow airport, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, May 21, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s biggest pilots union welcomed a lawmaker’s attempt to ban companies from forcing employees to accept inferior terms through “fire and rehire” tactics, a practise which it says British Airways is using.

British Airways has come under fire from UK lawmakers for using a furlough scheme while also seeking to axe 12,000 workers, and a number of politicians have publicly criticised it for offering less favourable terms to staff who stay.

The public clash over the issue could now become the subject of parliamentary debate and possible new legislation, after one member of parliament, Gavin Newlands, introduced a bill to the House of Commons.

“The behaviour of companies like British Airways who threaten mass redundancies to force workers onto vastly reduced T&Cs (terms and conditions) should be illegal. I’ve therefore laid a bill with cross party support to make it illegal,” Newlands, a lawmaker for the Scottish National Party, said on Twitter.

The head of UK pilots union BALPA said in a statement on Wednesday that BA had threatened both cabin crew and pilots with being hired on worse terms and he welcomed the bill.

“It is absolutely right that this practice of essentially legalised blackmail should be outlawed in the UK,” he said.

BA said in April it needed to axe up to 12,000 jobs, equivalent to 28% of its workforce, to ensure it can survive in the much smaller travel market that will emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesman for the airline declined to comment on the redundancy process on Wednesday. The chief executive of BA parent company IAG said in a letter to lawmakers last week that claims it was seeking to rehire people on reduced pay, terms and conditions were “vastly exaggerated”.

BA is trying to consult on the proposed redundancies, and while BALPA is engaging with the airline, two other unions Unite and GMB have so far declined to attend meetings.

Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Kate Holton

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