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Coronavirus: British Airways will furlough workers on 80% of pay, union says

British Airways has agreed to furlough its staff due to the coronavirus crisis and there will not be any redundancies, the Unite union has said.

The airline had been in talks to suspend 36,000 cabin crew, ground staff and engineers.

The scheme is understood to affect more than 30,000 workers and will run until May 31.

Unite said the company will introduce a modified version of the government’s job retention scheme, so that workers will be furloughed on 80% of pay as the fight to curb COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

Image: General Secretary of Unite the Union Len McCluskey

And no one will be made redundant and no temporary unpaid layoffs, according to the union.


However, unlike the government’s scheme – which covers 80% of salary capped at a maximum of £2,500 a month – there is no cap on earnings.

BA workers will also be able to divert their pension contributions into their pay for a short time.

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Unite national officer for aviation Oliver Richardson said: “Given the incredibly difficult circumstances that the entire aviation sector is facing this is as good a deal as possible for our members.

“The deal protects the jobs of BA staff and, as far as possible, also protects their pay.

“This is what can and should be done to protect workers during this unprecedented time for the airline sector.”

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The deal will now be circulated to Unite’s members at British Airways for their final approval.

A spokesman from BA said: “Our colleagues have done a brilliant job keeping vital routes open to reunite customers with their families, and bring back supplies to our hospitals, factories and shops.

“But with the challenges of Coronavirus, like many airlines, we have been in touch with colleagues to advise that we are implementing the furlough scheme to minimise the financial impact on them.”

It comes after BA previously axed services entirely at Gatwick and London city airports as a result of the outbreak.

Image: British Airways’ chief executive, Alex Cruz

Details of the talks were first reported by The Sun.

A letter from the union to its members, seen by Sky News earlier today, suggested there had been a hold-up over the wording of a deal – though the two sides had reached an agreement in principle in talks.

BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group, has previously said its capacity would be down 75% in April and May compared with the same period last year.

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British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz told staff in March jobs would be lost “perhaps for a short period, perhaps longer term” and the company was in discussions with trade unions.

He warned that it was in a battle for survival amid a crisis “of global proportions like no other we have known”, more serious than the financial crisis, SARS or 9/11.

Rival airline easyJet said on Monday that it had grounded its entire fleet.

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On Wednesday, Sky News revealed that fears over the future of another airline, Virgin Atlantic, had prompted major aviation industry players including Heathrow Airport to call for state intervention in the form of a bailout.


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