BA pilots face unpaid leave as easyJet seeks contract changes

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EasyJet has asked pilots and cabin crew to agree to widescale changes in their terms and conditions, in response to coronavirus, and British Airways has told its pilots that they won’t be paid for four weeks: two in April and two in May.

A freeze on planned pay rises at easyJet and a requirement to take three months of unpaid leave are at the centre of the changes. Unions representing the airline‘s staff have failed to reach agreement with easyJet and say they will soon put forward counter-proposals.

Both sides say they are willing to make concessions in order to avoid redundancies and talks are continuing. Under the proposals cabin crew and pilots will no longer be given food during shifts, and will receive only water.

On Wednesday, easyJet’s recently appointed chief operating officer Peter Bellew met delegates from the pilots’ union Balpa and Unite, which represents cabin crew.

Under discussion was a proposed “coronavirus cooperation agreement” setting out changes to employees’ terms and conditions. It would be in force from 23 March 2020 until 15 November 2021.

It would allow the airline to cancel pay rises until 2021, make major alterations to working patterns, and allow it to defer pay rises for newly promoted captains for six months.

This has caused pilots to react angrily, according to the BBC which has seen messages suggesting negotiators felt there was “no evidence that the current crisis warrants such an extensive change in terms and conditions for such a long period, particularly when so many of them are so critically linked to flight safety and fatigue”.

A statement by union Unite said: “Unite is very much still in talks with easyJet and it is totally untrue to suggest the union has rejected all the company’s proposals.”

However, the BBC has learnt that many employees and union representatives are concerned the airline might be using the current crisis as an excuse to change working practices, and erode employees’ pay and benefits in the long term.

In a statement, the company said: “EasyJet has met with its employee representatives in the UK to discuss how they can help the airline navigate through these unprecedented times…

“Like all airlines we are taking every action to remove cost and non-critical expenditure from the business at every level to help mitigate the impact from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

In the meantime, British Airways has today (Friday 20 March) announced that its pilots will be required to take two weeks’ unpaid leave in both April and May.

A letter sent to pilots by the airline stated that the unpaid leave would be implemented through deductions from basic pay over three months

Chief executive Alex Cruz last month told BA staff of plans to cut jobs and ground aircraft as he warned that the airline faced a battle to survive after the coronavirus pandemic brought most air travel to a standstill.

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