BRITISH Airways’ determination to push ahead with plans to axe thousands of staff and rehire most of those remaining on worse pay and conditions has been condemned as immoral by SNP MP Gavin Newlands.

Newlands, who has put forward a bill aimed at preventing the “fire and rehire” policy being pursued by BA, is a member of the influential Commons Transport Select Committee, which this weekend branded BA “a national disgrace” over its actions.

The committee accused BA of a “calculated attempt to take advantage” of the coronavirus crisis by axing up to 12,000 jobs and downgrading the conditions and terms of most of the remaining workforce.

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BA has been criticised for a “fire and rehire” approach by issuing redundancy notices to the majority of its 42,000 workers with the intention of retaining those that remain on lower wages and poorer conditions.

Newlands has also criticised Rolls-Royce management over the proposed 700 job losses at their Inchinnan plant, despite workers offering to increase working hours for less pay – and even accept no pay at all in the short-term.

BA’s mandatory 45-day redundancy consultation process ends tomorrow. Company supremo Willie Walsh has indicated that the redundancies may not begin then but has refused to withdraw the fire and rehire plans.

A Unite spokesperson told the Sunday National that the campaign to force the company into a rethink would continue.

He pointed out that BA’s parent company IAG, which is a quarter owned by Gulf nation Qatar, is currently in the process of buying another airline, Spain-based Air Europa, for €1 billion (£897 million) so it was hardly in financial difficulties. Unite is also angry the cuts are being made after BA made record profits of £1.1bn last year and has cash reserves of £2.6bn.

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The union claims the current difficulties facing airlines because of the pandemic are short term and BA would survive even if it grounded all its planes for a year.

BA has been supported by £35m of government money since May 14 by putting 22,000 staff on furlough. IAG, which is based in Spain, has also secured €1bn (£897m) in loans from the Spanish government.

Newlands said the company’s actions were “unacceptable”, with some of the proposed salary cuts as high as 70%.

He said his bill was unlikely to become law without government support but it would at least draw attention to the “nefarious practices of BA and their ilk” during the crisis.

“Under the cover of the coronavirus crisis, almost every BA employee has been threatened with redundancy, with one-third facing the axe, and the remainder rehired to contracts containing huge drops in salary and working conditions. This is immoral and should be illegal,” he said.

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“What is clear is that the life-changing experience of unemployment, with all its implications financially, socially, and economically, is being used as a stick to force long-standing employees into accepting far inferior salaries and conditions while doing exactly the same jobs. That can’t be an acceptable form of industrial relations in the year 2020.”

Newlands said that while the situations at BA and Rolls-Royce were not the same they both revealed the “malaise” that appeared to exist throughout UK industry.

Union proposals to prevent the job cuts at Inchinnan had been “rebuffed at every turn” by management.

“Instead the plans have been presented as a fait accompli, with no scope for debate and no room for workers’ input,” he said.

Newlands added that other countries had legislation preventing “this kind of Dickensian industrial relations policy” but in the UK management were free to do as they chose with “zero regard” for the consequence to communities, individuals, or the national economy.

“Nowhere else in Europe has this Friedmanesque approach to strategic economic policy and assets,” said Newlands. “Germany’s consistent economic growth over the decades is based fundamentally on partnership between firms, unions, and the state, and honest discussion about when and where change is needed.”

While acknowledging the problems facing the aviation industry at the moment, the Commons Transport Select Committee urged employers not to “proceed hastily” by making large numbers of people redundant while the furlough scheme is in place.

BA said it was in the “deepest crisis” ever faced by the industry and it would do everything possible to make sure the company survived and sustained the maximum number of jobs “consistent with the new reality”.