With BA being the largest airline at Heathrow Airport, I am aware how much this issue will affect many of my constituents. I have been working with other nearby MPs to put pressure on BA to make clear what steps they are taking to support those who will lose their jobs because of this crisis. Last month, we wrote a joint letter to British Airways CEO Alex Cruz, which you can read here https://www.tsdhesi.com/2020/05/20/british-airways-letter-to-ceo/.
At such a critical time for the country, businesses should be doing all they can to protect jobs. I believe an aviation sector deal, with conditions that protect jobs and the environment, must be done, and that the Government should have stepped in. The industry is critical to the UK and especially to Slough; we must ensure it has the best possible chance to survive and contribute towards our economic recovery.
My strong view is that the Government must act now to ensure that the long-term needs of our aviation sector are met. To do this, I am calling for the conditions of any bailouts agreed by the Government to guarantee that jobs and staff salaries are protected with a clear commitment to workers’ rights. Bailouts should also include commitments to tackling climate change, that any company in receipt of money must ensure their tax base is in the UK, and that no dividends should be paid until the company is proven to be commercially viable, as we have seen in other countries.
When pressed on the issue of BA redundancies, the Department for Transport has said it is speaking regularly with companies across the sector to encourage them to “draw down on the unprecedented support package”. It says that terms and conditions of employment are for negotiation between the employee and the employer, but that it stands ready to support affected workers. It notes that under exceptional circumstances bespoke support could be provided to airlines. I am aware that International Airlines Group, BA’s parent company, received a £300 million loan from the Treasury and Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility in mid-April, in addition to £900 million from the Spanish government.
The Chair of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee has expressed his disappointment that BA seems determined to press ahead with devastating cuts to their workforce, despite the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme being extended until the end of October. He has stated that BA’s loyal staff deserve better than to be treated like this.
Although I have not had the opportunity to update you until now, I have been working hard on this issue over the past weeks. My role as a Shadow Transport Minister means that while I cannot sign every campaign letter on this issue, I have been strongly involved in pushing this issue up the Labour Party’s agenda. Additionally, most MPs, including myself, very rarely if ever sign EDMs, since there are hundreds of them and they don’t often change Government policy.
I have also met regularly with trade unions, including BALPA and Unite, and earlier this month, I outlined the Government’s failed response to the BA crisis in the Slough Express and reaffirmed my commitment to put pressure on BA and the Government to protect jobs here in Slough https://www.sloughexpress.co.uk/news/opinions/158363/commons-sense-tan-dhesi-says-government-too-slow-to-protect-airlines.html.
As I am not a member of the Transport Select Committee, I was unable to ask a question to Willie Walsh, the CEO of International Airlines Group, when he was questioned by the Committee on 11 May. However, I was bitterly disappointed by Mr. Walsh’s comments that he is determined to press ahead with these devastating cuts to their workforce. You can read the full transcript of this session here https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/365/html/.
Please be assured that I will keep pressing for a support package for the industry which includes robust environmental conditions, as well as a commitment to protecting vital jobs. I will continue to do all I can to ensure that this dispute has a positive conclusion for my constituents.