Unions representing British Airways staff have called for “urgent” talks after the airline announced it wanted to close its main pension scheme.
BA said it planned to close its main “defined benefit” pension scheme, known as NAPS (New Airways Pension Scheme), because of its “significant and growing funding deficit”.
The move prompted two major unions, Unite and GMB, to issue a joint statement expressing their “dismay and bitter disappointment” at BA’s decision to close the pension scheme, which has around 17,000 members.
“Instead of certainty many will now face uncertainty as their retirement approaches. We would expect better treatment of its own staff from such a ‘premium brand’,” said the unions.
“Both unions jointly demand urgent talks to discuss both the impact of this announcement, if a solution can be found and, if not, the consequences the airline may face.
“Our team of financial analysts has worked tirelessly with the airline over the last few months to explore ways to keep the pension scheme open and secure it for the future.”
BA is already involved in a long-running dispute with Unite concerning members of its “mixed fleet” crew who have been taking industrial action over the last few months in a dispute over pay and conditions. Although these employees are not members of the NAPS pension scheme.
The airline said it has pumped £3.5 billion into the NAPS scheme over the last 14 years but the deficit has still grown to £3.7 billion.
“It is the largest of all UK company pension deficits relative to the company's overall financial value," said BA in a statement.
"In 2017 alone, the airline will pay £750 million in pension contributions and has already committed to provide between £300 million and £450 million a year till 2027 to address the NAPS deficit.”