British Airways said it planned to recruit over one thousand new cabin crew on lower wages than current staff as it faces possible further strikes by existing flight attendants in August.
The Unite union, which represents 90 percent of BA's 12,000 cabin staff, criticized the move which would do nothing to end a bitter dispute which has resulted in a series of walkouts.
BA will recruit 1,250 new crew members this year and forecast that in 10 years, staff on the new terms will make up 40 percent of cabin staff.
The airline said it was making the move in light of the losses it has posted over the past two years.
We have suffered back-to-back record financial losses and need to continue making permanent changes to our cost base to ensure our long-term survival, BA said on Thursday.
Existing cabin crew on short-haul flights from Heathrow earn an annual salary of 25,700 pounds ($38,490) while crew on long-haul flights from Heathrow earn 35,000 pounds on average. Those on short-haul routes out of Gatwick earn 18,300 pounds.
A BA spokesman said the new recruits would work on both short- and long-haul flights and earn a salary similar to current Gatwick crew.
Our Heathrow cabin crew costs are way out of line with our competitors and much more than our cabin crew costs at Gatwick. We can no longer afford this cost difference, he said.
THIRD WAVE OF STRIKES
The British airline faces a third wave of industrial action, disrupting the peak holiday season, after Unite said on Tuesday it would hold a fresh ballot of its cabin crew members.
Crews have walked out for 22 days so far this year, costing the airline around 150 million pounds ($220 million).
Unite said the ballot would run from June 29 to July 27, so walkouts could begin on August 3 if voted for.
This will do nothing to persuade cabin crew that BA management is looking to resolve the dispute, and nothing to dissuade our members from voting for further industrial action, said Unite Joint General Secretary Tony Woodley. Shares in British Airways were trading down 1 percent at 210.3 pence at 1406 GMT.