Union: Heathrow Fiasco ‘Could Have Been Avoided’ Had BA Not Sacked British Workers and Outsourced Jobs to India

An electronic board shows British Airways flights cancelled at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 in west London on May 27, 2017.

The IT fiasco which saw hundreds of flights from Heathrow cancelled and hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded “could have been avoided” if British Airways had not sacked British tech experts and outsourced their jobs to India, say workers’ representatives.

Mick Rix, national officer for aviation at the GMB Union, said: “We can only feel genuinely sorry for the tens of thousands of passengers who are stranded at airports and face having their travel plans and holidays ruined.

“This could have all been avoided. In 2016 BA made hundreds of dedicated and loyal IT staff redundant and outsourced the work to India.

“BA have made substantial profits for a number of years, and many viewed the company’s actions as just plain greedy.”

Airline executives claimed “only” two hundred British workers were sacked, according to the Daily Mirror, but Rix hit back in an interview with the BBC, saying he “wouldn’t expect a CEO to fully understand all the technical IT issues within a company”.

“Our understanding is if there was a certain group of people that had not been dismissed last year and their work had not been transferred to India then backup facilities which were supposed to kick in in the event of a mainframe crash would have been maintained,” he said.

“Since all these jobs have been lost due to dismissal, because the work has been outsourced to India, there is no trials, there is no proofings, there’s no testing that is taking place, and very valuable staff who were employed by BA, who intrinsically knew every system of this operation, which actually keeps its planes in the skies, have been lost.

“There’s been a brain drain away from the company, and all because the company wants to save 91 million euros by January 2019,” he said.

“Well, this company, if it wants to produce those savings, it’s probably just spent them this weekend in the compensation that it’s got to repay the passengers that it’s caused misery too.”

Asked by his interviewer whether BA was not bound to seek cost savings in a “ferociously competitive” industry, Nix pointed out the airline made “two billion pounds last year [and] a billion and a half pounds the year before”, and is enjoying rising passenger numbers.

“This is about corporate greed … We told them at the time there could be serious problems with the IT systems if you go ahead with the job cuts. However, the executives said, look, we’re in charge of the business, it’s up to us to run the airline … Actually, they’ve failed.”

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery


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