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Your June PR crisis round-up: Boeing, BrewDog and British Gas

This month, Boeing is once again taking a pounding over its safety measures and may be hauled up before the Department of Justice on criminal charges. Brewdog’s employer brand has been further dented after it sacked a woman after she received racist abuse from EDL-leaning patrons. And finally, British Gas is under fire for miscalculating bills.

Day of reckoning for Boeing

Things are not looking good for Boeing. The company has been plagued by safety problems – most recently when a door panel broke off a Boeing aircraft mid-flight, leaving a hole in the side of the aircraft. This month, Boeing is in front of a US Senate hearing, investigating practices at the company (including allegedly firing whistleblowers who raised safety concerns). The outgoing CEO was asked why safety hasn’t been sufficiently improved since 2019, when two air crashes involving Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft killed 346 people. Relatives of those who died were there to hear the company's defence – a stark reminder to all of us in crisis comms who you’re actually talking to when you trot out a corporate message about your ‘culture of safety first’. The Department of Justice has recommended criminal charges be brought against Boeing for failing to meet the terms of a settlement relating to the crashes – watch this space.

BrewDog fails its employees

BrewDog has hit the news again for all the wrong reasons after it sacked an Asian woman for gross misconduct, when she swore at a group of far-right English Defence League (EDL) members. According to reports by The Guardian, the group gathered in one of its bars ahead of a St George’s Day rally in London. The employee was accused of “aggressive behaviour and use of inappropriate language” in a disciplinary hearing (understandably, she was upset and, and swore in front of the bar’s general manager). She says the manager conducting the hearing didn’t know anything about the EDL. Her case has been taken up by her union, Unite, who said: "BrewDog has a history of treating their workers with contempt, but to sack a worker of colour for objecting to members of a fascist organisation meeting in their workplace is a new low for this company." This seems so monumentally stupid of BrewDog that I almost don’t know what to say about it – other than it’s really, really important to listen to your employees when they voice concerns about abusive behaviour in their place of work. Good crisis comms starts with good behaviour. 

British Gas learning from the Post Office?

British Gas could learn a thing or two from the Post Office. It’s been sending out massive, inaccurate bills (again) after moving seven million customers to a new billing system that miscalculated people’s meter readings. One woman, who lives in a two-bedroom flat, was paying for ‘enough energy to fuel a cannabis farm’, according to The Guardian. Another man was pursued by debt collectors for money he didn’t owe. The lesson from this – and the Post Office – is that if people start saying something’s wrong, listen to them early. They could help you identify an issue and stop you from doing something that causes real distress.

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