British Airways pilots urged to take 20% pay cut to save hundreds of redundancies

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British Airways workers are to vote on a 20% pay cut that could prevent hundreds of redundancies sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.

Pilots’ union BALPA said it’s urging staff to agree to salary changes, three months after BA first announced plans to axe up to 1,255 pilots and up to 12,000 jobs.

British Airways, which is owned by International Airlines Group (IAG.L), said pilots will vote on the proposed cuts over the next week.

It includes a 20% pay cut, which will eventually drop to 8% over the next two years and then towards current levels “over the longer term.”

The deal could see compulsory pilot job losses limited to around 270 staff, according to the union.

BALPA’s general secretary Brian Strutton said forced redundancies were “a matter of huge regret,” but said the union had negotiated the best package possible.

The package would also include voluntary redundancies, part-time working, and external secondments to limit costs.

Around 300 pilots would be placed in a “holding pool” on reduced pay, “ready to return to flying as demand picks up,” BALPA said in a statement.

The union said the measures would avoid any “fire and rehire” measures for pilots, which come with pay cuts of up to 75%.

“Given BA’s intransigence we have put together the best package we can to save as many jobs as possible,” BALPA general secretary, Brian Strutton said.

IAG’s chief financial officer Stephen Gunning welcomed the union’s plans for a consultative ballot over the deal reached with the ariline.

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“This is in response to the COVID-19 crisis affecting the aviation industry,” he said.

BA’s announcement of 12,000 potential job cuts came after its worst first-quarter losses since the 1980s, with bosses warning passenger numbers will not “return to 2019 levels” until 2023.

Chief executive Alex Cruz previously told staff: “There is no government bailout standing by for BA and we cannot expect the taxpayer to offset salaries indefinitely. Any money we borrow now will only be short-term and will not address the longer-term challenges we will face.”

It is understood that if a deal is agreed between BA and staff, most pilots will be from London Gatwick, which the airline has previously warned it may close permanently after lockdown.

In a memo to staff on April 30, managing director Adam Carson wrote: “As you know, we suspended our Gatwick flying schedule at the start of April and there is no certainty as to when or if these services can or will return.”

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