British Airways will furlough more than 30,000 employees under the UK government’s job-retention scheme amid the coronavirus crisis, in a move the GMB union describes as “a relief”.

“GMB and our sister union Unite have fought hard to secure members’ terms, conditions and job security. We believe the current deal, which is nearing its conclusion, secures this,” states GMB national officer Nadine Houghton.

Unite says it has been “working around the clock to protect thousands of jobs and to ensure the UK comes out of this unprecedented crisis with a viable aviation sector”.

It adds: “Talks with British Airways are ongoing and Unite’s priority is always to communicate with our members, who are very anxious at this time but who understand the work that Unite is doing to protect jobs, incomes and futures.”

IAG-owned BA confirms that “talks continue” but would not be drawn on the details of the agreement.

The UK government has agreed to pay 80% of the wages of directly employed workers, up to a maximum of £2,500 ($3,080) a month, as part of an economic package aimed at minimising the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its residents’ finances.

BA’s pilot union BALPA disclosed last month that the airline had offered redundancy to an unspecified number of crew members. The union later rejected suggestions that pilots faced a 50% pay cut in April and May.

IAG said on 16 March that it would cut capacity by 75% in April and May. BA has suspended flights at both London Gatwick and London City airports.