British Airways is facing a crunch court of appeal hearing this week into its policy of dismissing its female Hong Kong cabin crew at 45 – and denying them a pension.
Unite, the largest union in the country, will be arguing that the airline must apply UK law to its Hong Kong-based female cabin crew.
The case, which affects 24 of the Hong Kong female workforce, will be held at the court of appeal in London later this week.
Unite will say that BA’s failure to reach an agreement is a shameful attempt to 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 said it would contest the EAT ruling at the court of appeal.
Unite national officer for Civil Aviation, Brendan Gold, said: “BA’s mistreatment of these women is a stain on the reputation of a leading and iconic British company which has allowed such discriminatory practices to continue into the 21st century.
“We will be asking the court of appeal to uphold 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 with its intransigence, BA is treating a group of its workers as second class employees. It should not be allowed to sack female workers at 45. BA’s position is further undermined by the anti-age discrimination introduced in the UK in 2006.”
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 – if upheld by the court of appeal – would allow those crew dismissed at 45 by BA to have their claims for discrimination heard in the UK courts.