A British Airways executive at the centre of the Christian cross row has quit his £200,000-a-year job.
Neil Robertson, BA’s People Director, told staff in an email two weeks ago of his plans to leave BA at the end of January after a 30-year career.
Mr Robertson, 54, is part of BA’s senior management team under chief executive Willie Walsh, who has been forced to back down over a ban on workers wearing the cross outside their uniforms.
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Mr Walsh ordered a review of the rule that barred 55-year-old check-in worker Nadia Eweida from wearing a tiny cross after her treatment was angrily condemned by Cabinet Ministers, 100 MPs, 20 Church of England bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, who threatened to sell the Church of England’s £6.6m worth of shares in the airline.
Mr Robertson denied last night that his early retirement had anything to do with the crosses row. Speaking at his home at Marlow, Buckinghamshire, he insisted: ‘It has nothing to do with that at all. I have nothing more to say.’
BA claimed Mr Robertson had not been involved in the row and that he was retiring to ‘change his lifestyle’. But a BA spokesman admitted that as People Director, Mr Robertson was part of the management team which approved the uniform code.
On October 16, Mr Robertson replied to a letter from Steve Taylor, who described himself as a ‘worried investor’.
Mr Robertson, who signed off the emailed reply with his title ‘Director for People’, explained the policy over cross-wearing in detail, confirming: ‘The company requires that crosses on chains, or, indeed, any similar items, whether religious or not, should be placed underneath clothes. Some religious symbols – such as turbans and hijabs (veils for females … my words) – can be worn openly as they cannot be placed beneath uniforms.’
Mr Robertson, who is married with two children, will not go empty handed. Last week, he cashed in 185,000 share options which netted him £602,000. On top of that, he will receive a pension worth an estimated £100,000-plus.
A BA spokesman said last night: ‘Neil Robertson leaves at the end of January and he made his decision to leave in late summer – before the issue of the crosses appeared.’
BA said its policy on staff uniform was formulated by its Uniform Policy Group which makes recommendations to the leadership team, of which Mr Robertson is a member, and they make the final decisions.