Brace Yourselves – British Airways Pilots Are Being Balloted On Strike Action


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This has been coming for a while. Since around November last year the three major unions which represent the pilots, cabin crews and ground workers at British Airways have been negotiating as one for better pay and better benefits.

We heard from the unions in February (things weren’t going well) and then we heard again last month (things still weren’t going well) and now it looks as if things have reached breaking point.

Image courtesy of British Airways

BALPA, the Union representing British Airways’ pilots, has issued the airline with the legally required 7-days notice that it will be balloting its members on strike action.

The ballot papers will be posted out on 26 June and the closing date for the ballots to be returned is 22 July so, as the union has to give British Airways a minimum 2-weeks notice before industrial action can begin, we could see flights being affected from 5 August onwards. [HT: The Independent]

Since BALPA announced its intention to ballot its members on strike action we’ve also seen the union representing BA’s cabin crew (Mixed Fleet Unite) send out a letter to its members:

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

It looks as if the cabin crew union had a meeting with British Airways yesterday (to find out what management’s latest position is) and will be discussing the meeting (internally) on Monday (24 June).

The letter says that following the Monday meeting the union will decide on whether it too should ballot its members for industrial action.

This doesn’t bode well for British Airways flyers hoping for a hassle-free summer.

Back in January, an indicative ballot of British Airways employees saw an incredible 93% of them saying that they would be in favor of a ballot on industrial action so there’s definitely an appetite out there to ‘stick it to management’….and understandably so.

I don’t want to see industrial action take place any more than the next person (MJ has a British Airways flight booked for some time around August 5th) but I can see where the unions are coming from.

Image courtesy of British Airways

As I’ve said before…

I’m not entirely convinced that pilots need to be paid any more than they are already (they don’t seem to do too badly) but a large proportion of BA’s cabin crews seem to be seriously underpaid and they’re the ones often left to explain management’s cost-cutting decisions to disgruntled customers – they’re the ones at the sharp end of the business.

The crews took very big hits to their pay and benefits when BA was in the financial doldrums a few years ago so, now that the airline is making incredible amounts of money, it’s only right that the crews share in the spoils.

That doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

Bottom Line

British Airways has survived cabin crew strikes before and often without too much disruption to its schedules (sometimes there were even some unexpected bonuses for BA flyers)..but a pilots’ strike is a whole other ballgame.

If BA’s pilots choose to go for industrial action (and without any last-minute concessions from BA management I think they’ll vote overwhelmingly for some sort of action) British Airways and its customers could be in for a world of pain.

BA can’t just bring in pilots from elsewhere if their pilots go on strike so, come 5 August, the airline could be left with billions of dollars of aircraft sitting at airports around the world with nobody around to fly them.

It will be interesting to see what happens from here.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Not only are the BA mixed fleet cabin crew teams paid very little money, they also have very demanding flight schedules. One senior cabin crew member from the long haul team told me that the impact on the health and well being of the mixed fleet crew members has been huge, with many leaving in 2 to 3 years.

    They certainly deserve a raise for all their hard work, despite the regular service problems many people experience and report. Happy and motivated staff will make a big difference to the flying public and their positive impression of the airline.

  2. If there was a way for the unions to take actions to get paid fairly without the customer being affected, I’d be all in favor. Unfortunately, there is no such way, so I hope they succeed despite the problems that will ensue, and particularly hope the newer cabin crew who have been paid exceedingly poorly attain some recompense. @Dev has the right of it.

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