The Home Office has stonewalled the GMB trade union’s attempts to raise the plight of British Airways IT staff whose jobs are being sent to an Indian outsourcer – and the potential security implications involved.
The GMB has written four letters to the Department’s Secretary Theresa May – seen by us – after BA hired Tata Consultancy Services to run systems, putting hundreds of UK jobs at risk of redundancy.
Mick Rix, national officer at GMB, first raised the point in January that outsourcing systems, some of which “are crucial to national security”, was of concern for the country’s future safety.
He asked if the Home Office recorded instances of a failure in IT systems that led to passenger flights not being cross-referenced with the Home Office’s No Fly list, or if BA has failed to provide the Federation Aviation Administration in the US with cargo manifests for BA planes landing there.
The union rep also claimed BA had abused a loophole in the Tier 2 visa system that allowed the airline to use Intra Company Transfers to import TCS’s workers to Britain at the cost of the local workforce.
“In this instance, not only are the jobs not advertised in the UK as a requirement for most Tier 2 visas, the Tier 2 visa will be used by the outsourced company to directly replace a job currently occupied by a UK worker who will have been made redundant.”
The GMB then staged a protest with staff in February over the plans and in March again wrote to May asking for “acknowledgement of receipt, or a reply” to the previous letter. Again, nothing came back.
Fast forward to May, and then June, and another two letters went unanswered. We are told Rix personally delivered the January letter to the Home Office premises recently to ensure it hadn’t been lost in the post.
The BA job cuts aren’t just in IT but across the business. BA CEO Alex Cruz told staff it was beginning redundancy consultations “affecting Customer Experience (excluding cabin crew) and People and Legal.”
“Over time we will review other support functions to see whether scope exists for further change,” he said in a memo to staff.
Cruz said the changes were “about much more than reducing people costs”. BA is also removing the free snack passengers get on short haul flights. The company wants to chop €91m annually from its expense bill.
The GMB has had some success with other areas of Parliament. Rix wrote to the Home Affairs Select Committee with the same issues concerning visas and security and added pay to the list too.
In it, Rix estimated 80 per cent of the work BA techies do locally will be done in India, roles that paid on average £50,000 a year.
In contrast, TSC replacements will be paid £10,000 a year with expenses of £8,400, which “breached rules which state such workers should be paid £24,800 of the 'appropriate rate' whichever is higher”, he claimed.
The Committee responded, and said it will look at the changes by BA and “the wider implications they may have”.
This will likely come too late in the day to be of use to BA staff.
BA is already making good on its promises; it has put almost half of the app delivery team at risk of redundancy, including project managers and business analysts. 80 support roles based in Heathrow went at the start of this month, and members of the networks team are understood to be being TUPEd across to a telco.
We have asked the Home Office and BA to comment, and are awaiting a response. ®