British Airways is a prestigious company. It literally flies the flag for our country around the world. To work for BA is to work for one of our top employers.
Sadly, BA has let our country down. At the start of the corona virus outbreak BA announced that it would sack 12,000 employees. It then announced it would sack many more, then it offered them their old jobs back, but on lower wages and worse conditions of employment.
A kind of take-it-or-leave-it, offer you can’t refuse.
The airline blamed this drastic action on the pandemic, and it is clear that jobs would have to be lost. But the scale and the haste of the action suggested to me and others – including numerous cabin crew and a couple of pilots who live in Chester – that this was simply taking advantage of the crisis to make changes that they would not have got away with in normal times.
A cross party select committee of MPs found British Airways to have acted disgracefully in taking advantage of the crisis.
And other companies have too. Like the insurance sector. Some of the biggest and best-known businesses in Chester, and some of the smallest, have approached me about their insurance companies. All had business interruption insurance, and all found that the insurers were finding loopholes not to pay up.
I hope that when the pandemic is over, we will remember those companies who did not help the great national effort to win through – who took advantage of the crisis for their own benefit.
But just as there are villains, there are also heroes.
Health and care workers, supermarket and shop workers, transport staff. Postmen and women. Ordinary people getting on with their job in extraordinary circumstances and often putting themselves at risk.
And the community workers, volunteers and even just the neighbours in the street. Making sure the vulnerable are cared for, the hungry are fed, that nobody is forgotten.
I want to celebrate the heroes, so I have teamed up with Good For Nothing Chester and the Big Heritage Company for the Project a Hero programme. Community leaders and ordinary people who did their bit will have their names projected on to the castle on a weekend when the nights are darker and this is all over.
So, if you know someone who has played their part, however small, and deserves a little bit of thanks and recognition, let me know at my website, chrismatheson.co.uk/ project-a-local-hero-with-gfn.
Let ours be a country for heroes, and let ours be a future for heroes. They are the ones who will see us get through this crisis together.