BA union opposes Air Europa deal as clash over jobs heats up

LONDON (Reuters) - The clash between British Airways and its unions over 12,000 job losses intensified on Thursday as the Unite union said it had approached the European Commission to register its opposition to BA parent company’s acquisition of Air Europa.

British Airways aircrafts are seen at Bournemouth International Airport in Bournemouth, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Bournemouth, Britain, May 18, 2020. REUTERS/Matthew Childs

Unite, which represents BA cabin crew, is battling the airline over the job losses, refusing to attend consultation meetings, and winning support from UK lawmakers who have criticised British Airways for using “fire and rehire” tactics.

In the latest escalation, Unite said it was in talks with the EU Commissioner for Competition about its opposition to the acquisition by BA's parent IAG ICAG.L of Spanish airline Air Europa.

“Unite is questioning why IAG is seeking to fire and rehire the workforce at BA while its parent IAG is ploughing ahead with buying an airline for over 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion),” Unite Executive Officer Sharon Graham said in a statement.

Unite said it objected to the deal because it was anti-competitive but directed its main anger at BA, which has said it needs to shed jobs to make cost savings.

Another of IAG’s airlines, Iberia, said last November it would buy Air Europa for 1 billion euros but IAG’s boss Willie Walsh said in May that the group was evaluating whether to proceed with the purchase or not.

The deal is currently being considered by competition authorities. Unite said it intends to act as a third party opposing the deal which could mean the deal faces additional scrutiny.

IAG declined to comment on Unite’s move on Thursday.

Last week, Walsh said in a television interview that because of the way IAG is structured, Iberia’s acquisition of Air Europa would not have any impact on British Airways’ finances or jobs.

“Not a single penny of British Airways money will go towards that acquisition... it’s not going to in any way impact on the people at British Airways,” he told Sky News earlier in June.

Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Susan Fenton