The Spanish International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling, is one of the first companies to deny UK workers full engagement on their rights and representation as it moves to kick its UK employees out of its European Works Council (EWC).

Treating UK workers as second class

The move has been denounced as treating UK workers as second class and is another shameful episode for BA, coming a year after the airline destroyed thousands of UK workers' jobs through 'fire and rehire'. Brexit allows the IAG to make the move to exclude UK workers from it EU-wide employment consultation structures.

As a forum for discussion on pay and conditions across European companies (see notes), the EWC links IAG employee representatives throughout Europe including those in Spain, Ireland, Germany, France and Poland. These workers will be consulted over major decisions that will affect the UK workforce, including investments in new aircraft and their distribution across the group and the opening of new bases, but UK employees will now be removed from this process.

This move is simply unacceptable

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary said: ‘This move is simply unacceptable. We will not allow UK workers to be treated as a second class of worker, thrown out into the cold when it comes to discussing jobs, pay and conditions across British Airways and the IAG.

“Yet again management at IAG and BA are intent on kicking its UK workforce. Following their brutal attempts to fire and rehire their workers during the pandemic, they are now removing them from structures designed to ensure, openness, transparency and trust.

Unite is committed to protecting jobs, pay and conditions

“Unite is committed to protecting the jobs, pay and conditions of all our members and will ensure that this unethical decision by IAG does not damage their future employment prospects.”

IAG management’s decision to remove British Airways workers from the scope of the IAG EWC fuels further speculation first mooted by former IAG CEO Willie Walsh last year, when he predicted that the British flag carrier could be spun out of IAG in the wake of Covid-19.

Oliver Richardson, Unite national officer for civil aviation said: “This is an immoral decision, which will increase insecurity and fear among the workforce and will further damage morale at BA at a time when the company needs to recover from the effects of the Covid pandemic.

“Unite is determined not to allow IAG and BA to drive a wedge between their workers and remains fully committed to strengthening international solidarity by working with sister unions to defend the interests of workers.”


Notes to editors:

  • A European Works Council is an employee representative structure, whereby a company is legally required to inform and consult its employees on management decisions that impact on the workforce and employment, including the probable development of the business, probable trend of employment, investments, economic and financial situation of the company, mergers, cutbacks, possible collective redundancies etc.
  • UK employees and British Airways make up approximately 60 per cent of the total employee numbers in IAG Group and have been full members of the European Works Council since its creation in 2017.
  • During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.
  • For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.
  • Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.