British Airways warned yesterday it could not rule out compulsory redundancies after announcing the closure of its high street travel shops and a call centre in Belfast with 400 job losses.
This cuts across the pledge given by BA's new chief executive Willie Walsh last October that any job losses resulting from further cost-saving measures at the airline would be achieved through voluntary means.
BA said its entire UK network of 17 high street travel shops would close by August with 300 job losses, while a further 100 staff at the Belfast call centre would be made redundant.
The travel shops and the call centre are reckoned to be making losses of about £3m a year as more and more passengers have switched to booking flights on the internet. A BA spokesman said: "We are not ruling out compulsory redundancies but clearly we would want to keep them to a minimum. Everyone affected will have the chance to apply for other jobs within the airline."
Martin George, BA's commercial director, said calls to its UK call centres had fallen by 60 per cent since 2001 from 15 million to 6 million and the business had to reduce its headcount. Some 1,400 jobs had already gone with the closure of BA's Glasgow and London call centres in 2004.
The two remaining call centres in Manchester and Newcastle, which employ 700 staff between them, will continue to handle all enquiries from passengers telephoning from the UK.
The latest cutbacks form part of the £450m efficiency programme announced a week ago. BA aims to achieve the savings before its move into Heathrow's Terminal 5 in 2008. Mr Walsh has now forced through 1,000 job losses since he took over as chief executive on 1 October. At the end of November he announced that 600 senior and middle managers - a third of the total at BA - would lose their jobs. Many face compulsory redundancy. The first 93 have already been selected.
n More than 550 jobs are to go at Lloyds TSB as the country's biggest current-account provider tries to cut costs. Back-office posts will be lost in London and Kent, while three offices are to close in Lancashire, Co Durham and Glasgow.