Unite the Union has today (Monday) denounced British Airways for moving to overturn a recent ruling which said it must apply UK law to its Hong Kong-based female cabin crew.
The crew's union says BA's moves are a shameful attempt to persist with its policy of dismissing its female Hong Kong cabin crew at 45 years of age - and can continue to discriminate against its employees on both age and race grounds.
In January this year the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) upheld an Employment Tribunal 2008 ruling that the airline was wrong to claim that the women's Hong Kong nationality excluded them from the jurisdiction of UK employment law. Unite urged BA then to respect that judgement and move swiftly to end the discriminatory practices, however the airline has now said it will contest the EAT ruling at the Court of Appeal.
Unite national officer for civil aviation Steve Turner, said: "BA's continued mistreatment of these women is shameful. We have appealed to BA not to throw money at expensive lawyers so that they can squirm out of their obligations, but to instead respect the tribunal's wishes that these workers are covered by UK employment law and as such must not be discriminated against on any grounds, including their race or age.
"By continuing to fight this, BA is seeking to carry on treating a group of its workers as second class. This reflects very badly on BA as an employer but it also does profound damage to our country's reputation overseas to have our national carrier scrapping in court to ensure it can sack female workers at 45.
"BA should think again about the damage it is doing to its reputation, as well as the tremendous waste incurred in throwing skilled workers on the scrapheap when they still have years of service to give the airline."
Unite took the case to the EAT on behalf of one stewardess, Eliza Mak, and 16 colleagues. Eliza received her dismissal letter from BA when she turned 45, despite having worked for the airline since 1988.
BA dismisses its female Hong Kong crew when they turn 45 and denies them a pension, claiming its UK employment provisions do not apply to this workforce. Unlike their counterparts in the UK who retire with a pension at 60, the Hong Kong crew women are forced out of their jobs 15 years early and with only a one-off payment of a few thousand pounds on which to support themselves and their families.
Unite has been pushing for BA to accept that all its employees, wherever they may reside, should be covered by the company's employment agreements, including retirement age and pension rights. The January EAT ruling would allow those crew dismissed at 45 by BA to have their claims for discrimination heard in the UK courts.