Pilots’ union alleges airline intends to use sickness records to decide job cuts

Close up on a file tab with the word employees plus a note with the text sick leaves, blur effect at the background. Concept image for illustration of sick leave entilement.

EasyJet has denied accusations by the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) that it intends to use pilots’ sickness records when drawing up plans for more than 700 job cuts.

Speaking to BBC News, which broke the story, BALPA said easyJet has told pilot representatives it will use sickness as a component in choosing who loses their job, ahead of the start of formal talks between the airline and the union over plans to make 727 pilot redundancies.

Brian Strutton, BALPA’s general secretary, told the British public broadcaster such a move was outrageous.

“Flight safety is built on a culture of openness and not fear of repercussions. This is a well understood and fundamental tenet for everyone involved in ensuring our skies are safe,” he said.

“It is unnecessary and wrong that easyJet is intending to use sickness as a stick to beat its safety-critical staff. EasyJet has in the past rightly encouraged pilots to report in sick or fatigued if they are unfit to fly – that is in everyone’s best interest.”

He told BBC News EasyJet was planning to use the start of the coronavirus period as part of its sickness timeframe, when staff may have been sick or shielding themselves.

Travel Weekly has contacted easyJet for comment, but is yet to receive a reply. However, in a statement to BBC News, the airline rejected BALPA’s claims.

“We would never put forward proposals which would compromise safety as we have an industry-leading safety culture, as Balpa acknowledges,” the airline said.

“Safety is our number one priority, and we are focused on doing what is right for the long term health of the company and our people so we can protect jobs going forward.”

The airline told BBC News it is still setting out formal proposals for talks with BALPA, and while sickness might be one of the criteria, the focus would be on attendance and conduct.

“It is not true to say that sickness is a key component of the proposals. We have put forward a full range of criteria, including absence, for discussion with the union,” the airline said.

EasyJet added that any general absentee assessment would be based on data from before coronavirus hit.

“We are focused on doing what is right for the long-term health of the company and our people so we can protect jobs going forward,” it said.

The news comes after EasyJet flagged earlier this month that it may need to reduce staff numbers by up to 30 per cent in response to the global pandemic.

Meanwhile, the carrier said it is beginning to re-build its summer schedule, with plans to fly to and from all its UK bases across July and August, but at reduced capacity, as reported by BBC News.

The airline said it planned to fly 50 per cent of its 1,022 routes in July and 75 per cent in August.


Featured image source: iStock/olm26250

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