A UNION has launched its largest ever “direct action” campaign over fears British Airways is “cynically” using the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to cut thousands of jobs and slash wages.

Unite’s BA Betrayal campaign is aimed at piling pressure on the company by raising awareness of the plans among the public, customers, shareholders and businesses.

It has acted after the airline revealed plans to cut up to 12,000 jobs and impose wage cuts of up to 70% on staff who remain.

The union says it has set aside the largest ever budget for a “direct action” campaign of this type, a process which is known as leverage. It promises the campaign will be “on a scale previously unseen”.

As part of the launch, the message “British Airways. Stop Betraying Britain” was projected on iconic landmarks such as the House of Commons, the Angel of the North and Glasgow City Chambers.

Unite has accused BA of using the Covid-19 crisis to “betray” staff and passengers.

General secretary Len McCluskey has written to members of the board of BA’s parent group, IAG, saying he authorised the campaign to defend his members’ jobs.

He wrote: “I have no option but to do all I can to protect my members and shine a light on your betrayal of Britain and your cynical use of this crisis as cover for your corporate greed.

“We will ensure that the public, customers, businesses and all other stakeholders, will be made aware of your deplorable actions and the detail of how you as a company have acted in this crisis.

“All interested parties will be engaged by all and any means possible and I am sure that many will make decisions in light of your actions.”

McCluskey added: “Unite has tried to engage constructively with British Airways.

“If BA are not trying to use this crisis for corporate gain, then why has the company not agreed to come to the table to seek temporary measures until revenue returns?

“British Airways’ plan to use the worst health crisis in a century to strip loyal workers of their terms and conditions is a betrayal of workers and of Britain.

“We are launching a major public campaign to alert BA’s customers, shareholders and partners both in Britain and internationally, of the severe and permanent damage being done at a time of national crisis.”

On the BA Betrayal campaign website, one crew member, Dave, told how flying had been his life for 30 years and said he thought of BA as being his family.

He said: “I never dreamt we would be treated this way. It’s insensitive corporate greed taking advantage of a terrible situation.

“They are destroying the company I love and the brand of BA, our flag carrier.

“This is the ultimate betrayal.”

Leverage campaigns are increasingly being used by unions with the aim of putting pressure on employers by getting the public, customers, suppliers and shareholders to back their aims.

In a message to members, Unite said it has affirmed the largest budget ever set aside for a campaign of this type.”

The “redundancy and restructuring plans” were announced by BA parent company IAG on April 28.

A statement said: “The proposals remain subject to consultation but it is likely that they will affect most of British Airways’ employees and may result in the redundancy of up to 12,000 of them.”

Two weeks later, Willie Walsh, the chief executive, came under sustained attack by MPs over the plans when he appeared before the House of Commons Transport Select Committee.

He repeatedly insisted the actions were to ensure the survival of BA through the crisis, but MPs implied the coronavirus pandemic was being used as cover and highlighted thousands of emails received from BA staff.

Following the evidence session, committee chair Huw Merriman MP said: “It is very disappointing that British Airways seem determined to press ahead with devastating cuts to their workforce despite the Government furlough scheme being extended until the end of October.

“On the one hand, BA are happy to take taxpayers’ money from the furlough scheme which was designed to help companies avoid redundancies. Yet on the other, BA is ploughing ahead with a cull of their workforce and a lowering of terms and conditions.

“This is not what people would expect from our national flag carrier. BA’s loyal staff deserve better than to be treated like this.”

BA said in a statement yesterday: “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.

“We are committed to consulting openly with our unions and our people as we prepare for a new future.”

In March, the Sunday National revealed concerns that BA passengers and cabin crew were being put at risk by poor hygiene as coronavirus cases rose. Worried staff raised fears over aircraft not being deep cleaned, hand sanitiser and gloves being in short supply and that crew were forced to be in close proximity with each other and passengers.