As it pushes ahead with a plan to cut staff numbers by 29% - up to 12,000 job roles out of 42,000 - British Airways (BA, London Heathrow) has started sending letters to thousands of employees telling them they have been made redundant, despite intense opposition from unions.

With a selection process now completed, staff will learn whether they still have a job or not - and if they do, they will be told whether they will be required to accept a new contract or stay on their old one, according to Reuters and the Associated Press.

Around 6,000 staff have volunteered for redundancy, the IAG International Airlines Group-owned flag carrier claimed in a statement on August 7.

“Our half year results, published last week, clearly show the enormous financial impact of covid-19 on our business. We are having to make difficult decisions and take every possible action now to protect as many jobs as possible,” it said.

Of the 6,000 workers who have opted for voluntary redundancy, around 4,500 are cabin crew based at London Heathrow and London Gatwick, the airline added.

The BBC reported that many older cabin crew with longer periods working at British Airways felt compelled to accept voluntary redundancy. One of them, employed at BA for 23 years, had been told, in her words: 'If you do not take the offer, you will go into the fire-and-rehire phase.' "But if we are not hired, we will get only statutory redundancy," she protested.

Cabin crew union Unite accused the airline of “industrial thuggery” and said it was working with “over 200” members of parliament who “are questioning BA's right to lucrative slots.” It also reiterated that it would continue to fight against pay cuts for existing staff.

BA is currently operating less than 20% of its expected schedule and is burning through GBP20 million pounds (USD26 million) a day, the airline said.

As previously reported, the British Air Line Pilots' Association (BALPA) said in a statement on July 31 that its members had overwhelmingly approved a new collective labour agreement with British Airways, which foresees the elimination of 270 pilot jobs and "temporary 20% pay cuts reducing to 8% over two years and towards zero over the longer term."