British Airways staff overwhelmingly approve furlough deal

BA staff overwhelmingly approve furlough with 99% of union members voting for workers to stay at home on 80% pay during coronavirus crisis

  • Unite members back deal by 99% after negotiations between two sides 
  • It follows most flights being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic
  • Modified version of the Government’s job retention scheme introduced
  • Workers will be furloughed on 80% of pay but with no cap on earnings

British Airways employees have overwhelmingly voted to approve a deal to furlough the airline’s workers and preserve employment, a union revealed today.

Unite said its members backed the deal by 99 per cent after negotiations between the two sides following most flights being cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis.

It will see a modified version of the Government’s job retention scheme introduced, with workers furloughed on 80 per cent of pay, but with no cap on earnings.

Unite said workers will be able to divert their pension contributions into their pay for a short time, there will be no unpaid temporary lay-offs and no redundancies.

A British Airways plane lands on the northern runway at London Heathrow Airport on Monday

In a clear sign of the severity of the crisis facing industry, London Heathrow – Britain’s largest airport – partially shut down on Monday by closing one of its two runways.

Meanwhile, BA has temporarily laid off 36,000 employees and switched to a skeleton service, but many carriers are still repatriating Britons stranded abroad.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said today: ‘Unite members at British Airways have recognised the seriousness of the situation facing the aviation sector during this unprecedented crisis, and so have voted to accept the deal negotiated by their union.

‘Unite will continue to work on ensuring that members who are still flying remain fully protected. We will also continue to monitor the furlough arrangements throughout the coronavirus crisis.’

Shares in BA’s owner International Consolidated Airlines Group fell 0.5 points or 0.21 per cent to 242 points on the FTSE 100 index this morning. 

Global airlines warned yesterday that 25million jobs were at risk from the air travel downturn, and held out against offering refunds to passengers as cash runs out.

British Airways planes are parked at London Heathrow Airport last Thursday. The airline has temporarily laid off 36,000 employees and switched to a skeleton service

The International Air Transport Association issued the warning as part of a series of messages about the state of airline industry, while urging governments to help.

Three months of travel restrictions plus lower traffic over 2020 are putting staff at risk, with a third of 2.7million direct jobs in the sector already lost or furloughed. 

The aviation industry has been pleading for state aid after being crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, which has already claimed more than 5,000 lives in Britain.

But ministers are reluctant to offer an industry-wide bailout because they feel many airlines are run by tycoons with more than enough wealth to weather the storm. 

Budget airline Norwegian, which carries six million British passengers a year, is among the worst-hit airlines and saw demand drop by 61 per cent last month.

Over the weekend hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers had their plans thrown into fresh doubt after the Foreign Office extended its travel ban indefinitely.

The restriction on all non-essential trips anywhere in the world had been due to end later this month. But ministers now admit they have no idea when it will be lifted.

It raises the prosepct of mass cancellations of flights and holidays into the summer, and makes it harder to buy travel insurance with many firms now not selling policies. 

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