EasyJet accused of using sickness records to decide on job cuts

Airline giant easyJet plc (LON:EZJ) has been accused by prominent pilots’ trade union, the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), of using staff sickness records to calculate which employees to make redundant as the company pushes ahead with plans to axe 4,500 jobs.

The firm is preparing for 727 pilot redundancies as well as shutting down operations at its Stansted, Southend and Newcastle bases, following a mass restructuring drive in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

A number of airlines, including AirAsia (KLSE:AIRASIA) and United Airlines (NASDAQ:UAL), have been forced to cut costs and lay off staff after worldwide lockdown restrictions ground the travel industry to a halt.

While easyJet has acknowledged that historic staff absences will form part of its assessment, the company has defended itself by stating that it has only put forward initial proposals to BALPA and that talks are still at an early stage.

BALPA General Secretary, Brian Strutton, rejected the airllne’s statement:

“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. It is unnecessary and wrong that easyJet is intending to use sickness as a stick to beat its safety-critical staff”.

He has alleged that easyJet intends to use absences during the start of the coronavirus pandemic – when staff may have been sick, shielding themselves, or working from home for the safety of a family member – as part of its absenteeism timeframe.

The airline has since responded that these claims are untrue, stating:

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

With talks still ongoing, easyJet has confirmed that sick days may be considered as part of the company’s redundancy criteria, but overall conduct and attendance rates will form the bulk of the decision.

Sick leave taken during the coronavirus pandemic will not be included in the airline’s assessment, easyJet has assured.

The company concluded that it is taking all necessary steps to protect the health and safety of its staff, as it resumes its summer schedule with reduced flights to reflect less travel demand. EasyJet is reportedly planning to run 50% of its 1,022 routes in July and 75% in August.

Despite the controversial news, easyJet’s share price remains steady, up 1.72% to 664.00p at BST 16:39 10/07/20.

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Junior Journalist at the UK Investor Magazine. Focuses primarily on finance and business content. Has personal interests in Middle Eastern politics, human rights issues, and sustainability initiatives.