Iain Dale confronts British Airways boss over "aggressive" treatment of staff

9 June 2020, 07:19 | Updated: 9 June 2020, 07:27

By Fiona Jones

Iain Dale confronted the chief of British Airways' parent company over the "aggressive" treatment of staff during coronavirus crisis.

Tensions have risen between the British Airways and its employees after plans have been proposed to cut 12,000 jobs and reduce senior staff wages by 55% in a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The carrier has been accused of "taking advantage of a global pandemic in order to decimate its workforce", an employee told Iain Dale, with another telling LBC she found out the devastating news through listening to the station.

Willie Walsh, the chief of British Airways' parent company IAG, said, "I clearly don't want to upset anybody but I have to be very clear with the truth."

"The situation we face is pretty dire, the airline industry is effectively grounded," Mr Walsh said, "we want to engage in consultations with the staff representatives...to make sure everybody is fully aware of how difficult the situation is and to work with those representatives to address the challenge that we face."

Mr Walsh insisted British Airways is fulfilling its legal obligations to inform representatives about potential plans and asked for staff to acknowledge this.

Iain asked why BA was acting in this way when other carriers are not, the chief responded: "The legal environment under which we have to operate in British Airways is different to the legal environment in Ireland and in Spain."

Iain Dale confronts BA owner over "aggressive" treatment of staff
Iain Dale confronts BA owner over "aggressive" treatment of staff. Picture: LBC/PA

"I can assure you all of the airlines in the group are engaging with their elected representatives directly and indirectly to negotiate changes. That is the reality. It is a crisis facing every airline not just the airlines in IAG."

Iain responded, "Your other member airlines in IAG are not trying to impose these kind of salary cuts and changing conditions on their employees, are they?"

"We are consulting with employee representatives in all of the airlines...the suggestion that it's only British Airways is not fair and it's not correct," Mr Walsh said.

Iain countered: "Are you telling me that Iberia and Aer Lingus are proposing to cut the salaries of their staff or to fire and rehire in a similar way to British Airways, because they're not are they?"

Mr Walsh said BA is not proposing to cut all of the salaries of all of the staff and union representatives are not engaging in conversation.

"Just because the law is there doesn't mean you have to do it in this way," Iain said, citing Ryanair's CEO Michael O'Leary who has taken a pay cut and tiered down a temporary pay cut of Ryanair staff, "why can't you take a leaf out of his book?"

Mr Walsh countered that the challenges Ryanair faces is different to that of BA and emphasised that these are not done deals and want to engage with representatives. He told Iain he believes the BA executives are approaching these alterations in a fair and just way.

He said that in his opinion British Airways would not be handing out redundancy notices on 15 June.