Socialist Worker

BA management and the ‘lighter side’ of job cuts

Issue No. 2103

A still from the video shows

A still from the video shows 'closing down' BA stations

Socialist Worker has obtained footage of British Airways (BA) management relaxing at a meeting in 2006 that gives an insight into their attitude to their employees.

It shows about 50 senior managers watching a retirement speech – accompanied by projected images and sound effects – for Fred Whetnall, a general manager at British Airways Engineering responsible for industrial relations.

BA was then in the process of major restructuring, which led to the loss of thousands of jobs.

Alan McDonald, then BA’s director of engineering, gives the speech. He goes through a “humorous” version of Whetnall’s career.

At one point, McDonald jokes about how much Whetnall had loved BA’s engineering stations around the world, “until he realised there were blokes over there that could do it cheaper! And then he took great delight…”

The screen shows the symbols for various international stations being obliterated, accompanied by the sound of explosions, and a caption shows his delight was in “closing them down”.

This first joke about redundancy leads to much laughter from the assembled managers.

Later, McDonald explains how Whetnall “has headcount reduced all round the world, more than all the other general managers put together”.

Though “headcount reduction” is management speak for redundacies, the accompanying images and sounds of shotgun blasts allude to his love of shooting game.

McDonald then says “let’s get serious”, and praises Whetnall for his work in the Engineering Negotiating Forum, the body that talks with trade unions.

On screen images of union negotiators appear with a sign out box, as if their role is finished. McDonald comments, “Seeing as you’ve got some of the real specialists around here clocking off, I guess you can do the same.”

There is nothing here that will surprise workers in BA or any other large corporation. However, the image of managers laughing at jokes about large scale redundancies sticks in the mind.

A still from the video shows union negotiators with a sign out box

A still from the video shows union negotiators with a sign out box

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