Trade union Unite is preparing to launch a major UK campaign opposing British Airways redundancy plans after the consultation on job cuts began.

The union said a Section 188 consultation notice now sent to workers “effectively sacks” all 41,000 BA workers, many of whom will be brought back on “considerably worse terms and conditions”.

The carrier has announced it is looking to make 12,000 staff redundant due the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unite described the move as a “betrayal of thousands of staff and the public”.

The union claimed BA parent IAG is sitting on assets and reserves that could see it through the coronavirus crisis “without the need for permanent cuts or redundancies”.

And it says the company pays dividends to shareholders “in the billions” while accessing taxpayer money through the UK government’s furlough or Job Retention Scheme.

In a letter to the board of IAG, chief executive Willie Walsh and chairman and chief executive of Iberia, Luis Gallego Martin, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said:

“I have no option but to do all I can to protect my members and shine a light on your betrayal of Britain and your cynical use of this crisis as cover for your corporate greed.

“In the first stages, I have authorised a multifaceted campaign in defence of our members.

“This, as you may know, means that we will ensure that the public, customers, businesses and all other stakeholders, will be made aware of your deplorable actions and the detail of how you as a company have acted in this crisis.

“All interested parties will be engaged by all and any means possible and I am sure that many will make decisions in light of your actions.”

Unite accused BA of dusting off old plans to “strip terms and conditions from BA workers” even while some were volunteering as NHS workers to save lives.

McCluskey said: “Unite has tried to engage constructively with British Airways. If BA are not trying to use this crisis for corporate gain, then why has the company not agreed to come to the table to seek temporary measures until revenue returns?

“British Airways’ plan to use the worst health crisis in a century to strip loyal workers of their terms and conditions is a betrayal of workers and of Britain.

“We are launching a major public campaign to alert BA’s customers, shareholders and partners both in Britain and internationally, of the severe and permanent damage being done at a time of national crisis.”

A social media post circulating on Facebook purporting to be posted by a friend of a BA worker who faces redundancy after 15 years claims staff offered jobs will be forced to take pay cuts of up to 60% and agreed to productivity increases of 25%.