Hundreds of British Airways workers at Gatwick Airport are set to lose their jobs or be transferred to another company under cost-saving plans unveiled by the airline today.
The carrier said 400 ramp workers, including baggage handlers, will see their jobs outsourced, while 170 customer service staff and management support employees will be laid off under the proposals.
BA said in a statement: "We have begun consultation with our trade unions on proposals to transform the way British Airways works at Gatwick.
"They are part of a wide-ranging plan to build a stronger and more cost-competitive business and safeguard jobs for the future.
"Proposals include outsourcing the ramp work, including baggage, de-icing and coaching operations, and the arrivals baggage service and combining roles within customer services.
"We hope to agree a proposal with the trade unions to offer anyone who works on the ramp a role with a new external supplier, under TUPE transfer legislation.
"We will do all we can to minimise the impact on people in the customer service teams, but it is likely there may be some staff reductions in this area and among the management team and support structure.
"As a traditional full-service carrier with a long history, we have to meet the challenge of transforming our cost base to compete more effectively in the short-haul market, while continuing to deliver outstanding service and value for our customers."
Gavin Davies, of the GMB union, said: "GMB has up to now enjoyed good industrial relations with BA at Gatwick. This announcement of 170 job losses and 400 staff to be outsourced is a disaster for staff morale.
"Particularly so because in the run-up to the Olympics the uncertainty around jobs will lead to rock bottom morale and this will impact on customer service levels at a time when morale needs to be high.
"GMB will want talks with the company to get to the bottom of what it is trying to achieve at Gatwick and we will want to see proper consultations with our members on the way forward. GMB members want BA to take this announcement off the table to allow this to happen."
Unite expressed concern over BA's announcement and called on the airline to guarantee no compulsory redundancies as a result of its business reorganisation.
National officer Oliver Richardson said: "BA's decision to reorganise its business at Gatwick and cut jobs is extremely worrying for staff. Unite is calling for no compulsory redundancies and, if a worker wishes to be redeployed, BA should find them alternative work.
"We believe that if British Airways works constructively with Unite, the impact of these cuts can be mitigated. Talks with BA formally get under way next week and Unite will be doing everything possible to maximise the opportunity for voluntary redundancies and redeployment."
BA is currently the only airline operating out of Gatwick with its own ground staff workforce.