June 11, 2020 / 8:49 AM / 25 days ago

British Airways turns to Damien Hirst in its hour of need

FILE PHOTO: British Airways planes are seen parked at Bournemouth Airport, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Bournemouth, Britain, April 1, 2020. REUTERS/Paul Childs/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - British Airways will sell at least 10 works of art that normally hang in its executive lounges, a source said, turning to pieces by famous artists like Damien Hirst to raise millions of pounds to help it through the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline has come under fire from British politicians for plans to cut 12,000 jobs. But with planes grounded and no revenue, it says the job losses are necessary because travel demand is set to shrink in coming years.

As well as Hirst, the BA collection includes works by Peter Doig and Bridget Riley. The idea of selling them came from a BA staff member, a source familiar with the situation said on Thursday.

At least one work has been valued at more than 1 million pounds ($1.27 million), the source added.

BA boss Alex Cruz said last week that with its parent company IAG (ICAG.L) burning through 178 million pounds a week, he could not guarantee BA’s survival and urged unions to engage over the job cuts.

One union, Unite, on Thursday escalated its clash with BA, saying it was in talks with the EU Commissioner for Competition about its opposition to the acquisition by IAG of Spanish airline Air Europa.

BA has said it is taking steps now to reduce up to 28% of staff numbers to protect as many jobs as it can in the long term.

Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Nick Macfie and Stephen Addison

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