THE 21 sacked Lagos (Nigeria) cabin crew of Virgin Atlantic Airways, disengaged on November 3, 2015, and given only 27 days’ notice (until November 30) have labeled the action not only wicked and unjust, but racist.
Apart from the short notice, they are crying that their colleagues in other countries got better severance packages and were humanely treated.
In a document chronicling the events, the crew stated:
DISCRIMINATORY TREATMENT OF LAGOS BASED CREW BY VIRGIN ATLANTIC AIRWAYS
The above subject matter refers.
We would like to use your esteemed medium to call the attention of all well meaning Nigerians and indeed the relevant authorities to a sad trend that has become commonplace within the Nigerian workforce as regards foreign business operators in the country and the poor treatment of its local content.
The case in view is the recent manner in which the Lagos based cabin crew of Virgin Atlantic have had their jobs terminated effective November 30, via a letter dated November 3, without any prior hint or consultation and I dare say for no reasonable cause. A meeting was called by the management of Aviation Logistics Management Limited (ALML) and a Virgin Atlantic representative Alasdair Boyle (International Crew Manager) on November 3, 2015 where the decision was conveyed to the crew in attendance and a letter of termination handed down thereby foreclosing any option of dialogue, negotiations or consultations in the matter.
We would not like to bore you with our sentiments as regards this for now. We, however, would crave your indulgence and patience in reading the communiqué below excerpted from Virgin Atlantic so you can make an informed decision on the TRUE nature of the motive driving this decision.
Please, kindly note all the palliative measures and considerations offered to their UK counterparts and draw your conclusions. Also worthy of note is the fact that whilst the Lagos – London route remains one of Virgin Atlantic’s most profitable and they are happy to continue the business they are, however, making the Lagos based Crew the fall guys in order to keep their UK counterpart content. Some of these crew (Lagos based) have been with the airline from inception since 2001…
In the meantime digest the following reasons given by Jill Brady, who is the Executive Vice President, Customer Services, Virgin Atlantic.
UPDATE FROM JILL BRADY (VIRGIN ATLANTIC)
As you know, we have been looking at our crew ranks, crew complement and onboard services as we consider how to improve outcomes for our customers whilst creating a financially resilient company that can achieve sustainable growth for the future. I appreciate that it has been a difficult time for all of you as we work through this and I thank you all for your continued patience and professionalism. Whilst trial flights continue throughout November and no decision has yet been made regarding crew complement, I can now share with you the outcomes of our review on ranks and our international crew bases.
As there’s a lot of information to share, I have broken this down into segments. Those who are directly affected by this announcement have already received individual communications.
UK crew changes Senior Cabin Crew role
When reviewing our structure and cost base, it became apparent that we have more crew ranks than many other airlines. Having four distinct ranks, rather than three or less, was an example of where we have additional layers and complexity within our organization.
After very careful consideration, we have decided to simplify our rank structure by having one rank of cabin crew that will work across all cabins and, as a result, from March 31, 2016, we will no longer have a Senior Cabin Crew (SCC) role.
To mitigate against job losses there will be several options made available to all UK based SCCs. These include an alternative Cabin Crew role, voluntary redundancy and part-time options. I have written to all of our SCCs separately to inform them of this decision and the options available to them.
Cabin Service Supervisor role
We have decided that from March 31, 2016 on all B787 and A330 aircraft operating with one CSS, that this position will be manned by a UK based CSS. Whilst this means that there will be no required job losses in the UK CSS rank, there will unfortunately be an impact on our internationally based CSSs, who are being communicated with separately to inform them of this decision.
Further mitigation of UK job losses
To further mitigate against job losses in our SCC rank, we are offering all UK based Flight Service Managers (FSMs) and CSSs the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy.
To make this operationally more manageable we will be offering people the choice to leave the business on one of two staggered dates; one in April 2016 and the other in October 2016.
We are clearly going through an unprecedented level of change and I am conscious that our new rank structures may not please everyone. This voluntary redundancy opportunity will allow all on board managers to make the right decision for them.
We have also been conducting a full review of our international crew ranks in Lagos, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Delhi.
Having four international bases, all with locally based cabin crew, was another example of additional layers, complexity and cost within our organisation. We are therefore making the following changes to restructure our international bases.
The primary purpose of having Lagos based cabin crew has been to provide cultural expertise. However, recent customer research has shown that this is no longer a requirement on the Lagos route. As a result and to reduce complexity in our operation we have decided that from November 30, 2015, we will be closing our Lagos crew base.
Our Lagos based crew have been met with and written to separately to inform them of this decision.
International crew roles
Having carefully reviewed our customer service offering, we have decided that from March 31, 2016 we will be reducing the complement of international cabin crew on flights to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Delhi to two crew members.
All affected international crew members have been communicated with separately to inform them of this decision. Whilst these changes to our international bases are an important step to drive simplicity and improve our operational costs, they have not been easy decisions. Those affected in our international bases have been dedicated and respected members of our team and I know that many of you will be upset that friends and colleagues will no longer be working with us. I want to assure you that we will ensure that they are supported through this difficult time.
We do recognise that our customers still require language expertise on our Shanghai, Delhi and Hong Kong routes and so internationally based crews in the Cabin Crew rank will therefore remain unaffected.
I appreciate that this will be a difficult time for all affected UK and International crews and I would ask that you give them your full support and understanding over the coming weeks. I also recognise that there is a lot of information to absorb and I am sorry that many of you will receive this news whilst you are away from home or preparing for duty. I know this is difficult news and that some of you will now be considering the options available to you. Please make sure you speak to your Cabin Crew Managers and read the relevant sections of the intranet to get all of the information you need to make the right decision for you.
Finally, your dedication to our customers throughout this time has remained steadfast and I want to finish by assuring you that it is recognised and appreciated.
Executive Vice President Customer
Footnote: Inferring from the above, even within the context of internationally based crew comprising Lagos, Delhi, Hong Kong and Shanghai, only the Lagos crew have no option of keeping their jobs within the regular cabin crew rank. Whilst other international crew have till March 2016 (4 months from now) for the redundancy to be effective, their Lagos counterpart have been given less than a month to stop work (November 30, 2015).
Delhi has been considered by Jill Brady to have a language barrier necessitating the continued use of local content crew from India, however, minimal but Lagos which has the same common lingua franca – English as Delhi has not been deemed worthy of continued use of local crew.
While Jill Brady was conscious to mitigate against job losses to the UK based crew she however did not consider their Lagos counterpart worthy of such consideration. They have been used while they were needed and unceremoniously dumped to save cost to the business and protect Job cuts to the UK crew even though Lagos as a route is one of the reasons Virgin Atlantic as a company can still make profit. Simply put, without the Lagos route Virgin Atlantic will be in the red.
It is noteworthy that the company said that the reason for all the restructuring and downsizing is to return the company to profitability, but for every Lagos based crew taken off the flight and replaced with UK based crew, the company is going to incur more cost in the sense that they pay UK based crews more allowance for coming to Lagos than they pay Lagos based crews for going to London.
The Airport Manager, in the person of Mr. Justin Bell was recently relocated from his former apartment at Shonibare Estate in Ikeja to another apartment at Banana Island in Ikoyi. This is fully paid for by the same company that’s trying to reduce cost.
All the Lagos crews that were laid off were only offered a month’s salary as pay off for 15 years of active service to the company.
Several documents in our possession about the operations of Virgin Atlantic across the world corroborated the claims of the Lagos cabin crew.
For example, when the Accra (Ghana) route was discontinued in 2013, the staffers got better bargain.
The redundancy package had the following:
– 2.5 months pay for every completed worked
– 13th month prorated pay
– Loyalty bonus of 1 month pay payable to you on 30th September 2013 if you achieve the performance objectives that have been set
– Payment for unutilized leave days
– Staff Travel Concession terminates on the day of the last Virgin Atlantic flight from Accra (23 September 2013)
– Workmen Compensation terminates on last day of employment
– Medical Insurance terminates on December 2013
– Certificate of Service
To be eligible for the redundancy package, you are required to work until you are served with a notice of redundancy.
The disengaged crew members are pursuing different means of redress, including a court case.