British Airways staff are absent for more than twice as many days a year as the national average, according to chief executive, Rod Eddington, costing the airline almost £60 million a year in direct costs.
In a letter to staff published in the internal newspaper 'BA News', Eddington said that the average absence for BA staff is 16.7 days a year. This is almost twice the national public sector average of 8.5 days. The UK private sector average is only 6.5 days.
Such a high average figure also means that many staff are absent for considerably longer than 16.7 days.
"These are dreadful statistics and work is currently going on both with employee and union representatives to find out why – and how best to tackle the problem," Eddington wrote.
The Transport and General Workers’ Union said that it was examining a range of factors that could explain such a high absence rates. Among these were BA's ongoing policy of cost reductions that had led to more work for fewer people, a pattern of high cabin crew sickness levels, the impact of aircraft air conditioning plus the way that the absence figures themselves were calculated.
But as Eddington insisted, while staff have to take time off when they are ill, 'sickies' were a different matter.
"If you're healthy and paid to do a job by BA, it's your duty to come in and do it. Otherwise, you're letting yourself and the airline down – not to mention the vast majority of your colleagues who continue to work so hard and selflessly in difficult and uncertain times," he said.
"Any headway we can make now will contribute towards the £300 million reduction in employee costs we have targeted."