British Airways | CEO Alex Cruz steps down after HR and jobs furore

CEO Alex Cruz steps down after HR and jobs furore

Alex Cruz has stepped down as British Airways CEO after heavy financial losses, bitter union disputes and widespread criticism over the treatment of staff during rounds of job cuts.

With £3.8bn losses announced in July, as custom collapsed during the coronavirus crisis, Cruz was accused of leading a ‘fire and rehire’ job cuts strategy, as he oversaw 12,000 staff being made redundant.

In September, Cruz had to defend the job cuts strategy after unions said it was a gambit to pish 30,000 employees who still have jobs onto downgraded terms and conditions.

For staff who initially did not face redundancy, there was the possibility of future job cuts or new contracts with lower pay.

It was widely reported some staff faced new contracts which would cut pay by 50%.

Unions Unite and GMB, which represent thousands of lower paid staff, hit out at British Airways’ plan to cut jobs and working conditions.

In April, Len Mcluskey, leader of the Unite union described BA’s decision as heartless, and a “stab in the back”, saying it was “entirely at odds with the course of action followed by our European competitors as they seek a way through the coronavirus crisis”.

Mcluskey added: “To reject government support but then expect their own staff to pay the cost of such a misjudgement, is irresponsible, dangerous and destructive and is utterly at odds with the mood of the country at a time of crisis.”

In August, the Financial Times published an internal email in which the then CEO wrote that he predicted a “very slow recovery over the next few years and, during that time, we do not have enough jobs for everyone”.

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However, Luis Gallego, Chief Executive at IAG, the parent company of British Airways, noted that Cruz had taken the airline through a tough period.

He said: “Cruz has led the airline through a particularly demanding period and has secured restructuring agreements with the vast majority of employees.”

Cruz, appointed as Chairman and Chief Executive of British Airways in 2016, was paid £805,000 in salary, benefits and pension in 2019

Cruz’s tenure

Since Cruz was appointed in 2016, there have been several high profile disputes over the direction of business travel at the airline.

He was lambasted for changes over economy seating, industrial disputes and also a power supply issue in 2017.

Theo Leggett, Business Correspondent at BBC, also described staff disagreements with the carrier, under Cruz’ control, over what was described as “poverty pay”.

HR at BA

In January 2019, HR Grapevine had exclusive access to British Airways’ then Chief People Officer Angela Williams - who left BA in May 2020 - to ask her what changes she was making for people after years of criticism and low staff engagement at the firm.

Hired by Cruz in order to transform the people function at the firm, Williams noted that the then CEO wanted her to create an environment where staff were proud to come in and work whilst also being engaged.

As well as this, she wanted to better the company’s Glassdoor rating of three stars, take engagement rate to over 70% and properly implement staff recognition.

*An earlier version of this article had not updated that Angela Williams is no longer employed by British Airways. It has since been corrected.

Image Credit: © British Airways - all rights reserved

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