British Airways should be stripped of prime landing slots as it plans thousands of job cuts in the coronavirus crisis, ministers were told today.
The airline plans a major restructuring which could trigger up to 12,000 redundancies and changes to the terms and conditions of remaining staff.
Senior Labour MP Barbara Keeley called on the Government to deprive the flag carrier of sought-after slots at Heathrow Airport.
Speaking in the Commons, she said: “British Airways is proposing to lay off 12,000 staff and is using this pandemic as cover to put their remaining 30,000 staff on inferior contracts.
“Using a global health crisis to force through such changes is a national disgrace.
“Yet British Airways still enjoys preferential treatment as our flag carrier, with a dominant position on slots at Heathrow.
“If they fail to treat their staff properly, surely it is time to review whether they are fit to be our national carrier and also time to reallocate those slots.”
Former Shadow Cabinet Minister Richard Burgon accused the company of a “jobs betrayal”.
He said campaigners and unions were “calling on the Prime Minister to act, if BA continues with these plans, by amending BA’s access to lucrative UK landing slots”.
Transport Minister Kelly Tolhurst warned: “Employees should be treated fairly and in the sprit of partnership.”
She added: “We will be looking at all regulations at our disposal.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the Government has injected cash to support businesses via the coronavirus furlough scheme, and urged BA to thrash out a solution with staff.
He told MPs: “We put in a lot of money through the furlough scheme to support jobs, we now expect both British Airways and other companies – and indeed the unions – to actually sit down and sort this out properly.”
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg weighed in, saying: “I think treating people who have worked for a firm for a very long time unfairly is not a way that reputable companies should behave.”
Unite executive officer Sharon Graham said: “BA has been branded a ‘national disgrace’ by MPs.
“The airline’s actions have put its trusted brand and its control of lucrative UK landing slots at serious risk.
“MPs from all sides are backing the call for the redistribution of the slots.
“BA management can repair this self-inflicted damage by getting around the negotiating table without its unprecedented ‘fire and rehire’ threat.
“The union is, as always, ready to negotiate.
“BA needs to come to the table and get sensible discussions underway.”
A BA spokesman said: “We are acting now to protect as many jobs possible.
“The airline industry is facing the deepest structural change in its history, as well as facing a severely weakened global economy.”
He called in unions to “consult with us on our proposals as our pilot union, Balpa, is doing”.
He added: “Working together we can protect more jobs as we prepare for a new future.”