AN AIRCRAFT engineer has been awarded almost £25,000 after winning his case for constructive dismissal against British Airways.

John Higgins, from High Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, was sacked after installing the wrong part on a plane at British Airways Maintenance Glasgow (BAMG) last March.

He claims he was under extreme pressure due to staffing problems, an excessive workload and unreasonable timescales and said the error "did not compromise the safe operation of the aircraft".

However, bosses at BA claimed that it did and sacked Mr Higgins before offering him a demoted post on appeal.

As the new post was three grades below his position as aircraft maintenance supervisor and attracted half the salary, the engineer rejected, leaving him to resign.

In a written judgment on the case, employment judge Susan Walker found that the sanction imposed by BA was "draconian" and "unjustified", She awarded Mr Higgins, who had an unblemished 27-year career with BA, £24,654.

Judge Walker said: "The Tribunal had little difficulty in concluding that demotion of three grades with the associated drop in pay and responsibility was likely to seriously damage the relationship of trust and confidence between the parties.

"It would be humiliating for the claimant with his length of service and experience to go back to this relatively junior grade and have his supervisory responsibilities removed from him.

"The tribunal considered that BA did not have 'reasonable and proper cause' in all the circumstances, viewed objectively, for the sanction it imposed."

The tribunal was told that BAMG was seriously short-staffed on March 1 and 2 last year when Mr Higgins was overseeing work on an Airbus A321.

One of the contractors working under him damaged a wire and Mr Higgins repaired it with a splice which turned out to be the wrong one.

BA argued that the repair he carried out was important to the safety of the plane, but judge Walker found that manager Brian Queally had "overstated" the seriousness of the situation.

The plane also had two of these parts so if Mr Higgins' mistake had caused a safety breach, there was a back-up in place to deal with it.

Furthermore, the tribunal was told that the incident was not reported to the Civil Aviation Authority so, in line with safety guidelines, could not have been deemed to "endanger an aircraft, its occupants or any other person".

Mr Higgins tried to claim that he had been sacked for raising safety concerns over procedures at BA but that aspect of his case was thrown out. His award was also reduced by 50 per cent because he contributed to his dismissal.

A BA spokeswoman said: "We are pleased that the whistleblowing claims were not upheld, but we are disappointed with the outcome of the tribunal. We feel we acted fairly and properly."