December 05, 2021

IAG chief hints at legal action over government quarantine and calls for union engagement over BA's future

June 05, 2020

The chief executive of IAG says he wants trade unions to "engage" with the airline's management to ensure the future of British Airways, also hinting that the company could take legal action against the government's quarantine plans.

Willie Walsh was speaking days after the government announced a 14-day quarantine for arriving air passengers starting later this month, another obstacle for an aviation sector battered by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Walsh told Sky's Ian King Live programme that he is considering a legal challenge against the quarantine and is reviewing the situation with lawyers.

He said that the new rules would "torpedo" the airline's chances of flying in July.

"We think it is irrational, we think it is disproportionate and we are giving consideration to a legal challenge to this legislation," he added.

Mr Walsh said the industry was facing its "most difficult challenge", saying British Airways flew only 485 passengers flights last month.

He added: "We did that by lunchtime on 1 May last year."

It comes as a row intensifies between management and unions over the proposed loss of 12,000 jobs, prompting accusations from Unite union boss Len McCluskey that British Airways management was behaving like "industrial thugs".

Mr Walsh said: "What we're doing is consulting with the trade unions, with the elected representatives on potential job cuts.

"No decision has been taken in relation to actual redundancies.

"But what we have done is in compliance with the law - there's a legal obligation on the company to submit these documents to the elected representatives, then to engage in consultations to give everybody an opportunity to try and reduce, mitigate, do anything we can to reduce the impact of the potential restructuring of the business."

He added: "We want the trade unions to engage with the British Airways management team to represent the people working hard at BA to ensure the airline can have a future."

It comes a day after Sky News reported exclusively that British Airways had told staff its parent firm is burning through £178m of cash a week and the airline does not have "an absolute right to exist".

In a letter to staff seen by Sky News, BA chief executive Alex Cruz rounds on the GMB and Unite unions, calling a campaign to take Heathrow landing slots away from BA "bizarre" and a threat to jobs.

Mr Cruz saved his strongest criticism for unions - rounding on the GMB and Unite over a refusal to attend talks in the wake of the airline's decision to cut 12,000 jobs.

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