British Airways has strongly denied accusations by Unite the union that BAME workers, the disabled and younger staff have been disproportionately affected by the airline’s job cuts at Gatwick.

The airline had been widely criticised for its widespread job cuts and ‘fire and rehire’ plans.

Now the union says its survey of members at the airport shows the redundancies have had a disproportionate impact on different groups of personnel – but the airline rebutted the claims.

A BA spokesperson said: “As a global company we promote an inclusive culture and our commitment remains to improve the diversity of our teams.

“This restructuring has been an incredibly difficult and painful process for everyone involved, caused by a crisis not of our making.

“Our selection criteria are fair and non-discriminatory, focusing on performance, attendance and skills. We consulted fully with Unite on these criteria.

“Ethnicity was not a factor in our selection process as this would be both discriminatory against other groups and unlawful.”

Unite had raised concerns with BA that the airline’s planned redundancies could worsen the representation of BAME workers among cabin crew at Gatwick.

The union said this representation was already low before the redundancies, at 7%, compared to 13% nationally and 40% in London.

Unite conducted its own equality impact survey, the findings of which it described as “truly shocking”.

Less than half (41%) of workers who identify as white have been made compulsorily redundant or have been demoted.

The majority (61%) of BAME flying staff who responded to the survey have been made compulsorily redundant.

The survey also found that there are now no black onboard Customer Service Managers (CSMs). Most have been made compulsorily redundant and one has been demoted.

Furthermore, 80% of mixed-race cabin crew who responded to the survey have been made compulsorily redundant; 67% of Asian crew have been made compulsorily redundant; and 83% of BA Muslim flying staff have either been made compulsorily redundant or demoted.

The survey also found that all the CSMs who are under 25 have been selected for redundancy or have been demoted.

All CSMs with a disability who participated in the survey have been made redundant or demoted, as well as 71% of cabin crew employees who are caring for a family member with a disability.

Diana Holland, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “Unite’s findings are truly shocking and we are calling on the airline to swiftly assess the disproportionate impact ‘project fire & rehire’ is having on BAEM (Black and Asian Ethnic Minorities) staff.

“Britain is proudly diverse but our national flag carrier stands accused of potential widespread jobs discrimination amongst its Gatwick cabin crew.”

Harish Patel, Unite national BAEM equalities officer, said: “The survey found that BAEM workers, the disabled and younger staff have all been disproportionately impacted.”

Meanwhile, the union has said it will enter into formal negotiations with Gatwick following news that the airport is planning 600 redundancies – a quarter of its workforce.

Unite regional officer Jamie Major said: “This is a bitter blow for the workers and once again highlights the chronic failure of the government to support the aviation sector.

“The sheer scale of job losses is having a devastating effect on the local community and the local economy.

“It is why it is absolutely essential that the government actively intervenes and provides direct support for the aviation sector to allow it to recover from the pandemic.

“The extension of the job retention scheme well into 2021 would be an important first step and would help stem the jobs carnage that is currently being experienced.”