British Airways Pilots Get The Legal Go Ahead To Strike (But I Don’t Think They Will)

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Nine days ago, the union which represents approximately 90% of British Airways pilots (BALPA) announced that its members had voted overwhelmingly for strike action after the airline’s latest pay offer was turned down.

British Airways immediately took to the High Court in an attempt to get the ballot declared invalid (on technical grounds), but the presiding judge sided with BALPA and threw the case out.

British Airways then decided to appeal the decision and, in the hearing yesterday, suggested that the BALPA ballot did not provide it with all the information it is legally obliged to provide (BA said it wanted to know the percentage split between short-haul and long-haul pilots voting for strike action).

This morning, the appeals court offered up its ruling and confirmed what most of us have thought all along – British Airways doesn’t have a leg to stand on and the pilots are free to go on strike.

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What Happens Now?

BALPA hasn’t announced any strike dates and it says that no strike dates will be put forward until further negotiations have taken place…but that only gives travelers a temporary extension.

Talks between BALPA and British Airways management are scheduled to take place over the next 3 days so, as BALPA is legally only required to give British Airways 14 days notice of any planned action, we could still see a strike called for as early as 17 August – right in the middle of one of the busiest travel seasons in the year.

On a positive note, the noises coming out of BALPA seem to suggest that they would prefer to  come to an agreement with British Airways rather than strike, and this may have something to do with the popular press in the UK painting the pilots as “greedy” in recent days, and with rumors circulating that BA cabin crews are less than pleased with the demands being made by the pilots.

What makes things interesting is that, up until recently, BALPA has been negotiating in tandem with the unions representing BA’s cabin crews and ground workers but, while the latter two groups have accepted BA’s latest pay offer (said to be 11.5% over 3 years), the pilots are holding out for more…and they’re already the highest paid out all the disgruntled employees.

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Bottom Line

I’m not normally an optimist at times like this but this time I think we (the traveling public) may just get lucky – I think the pilots and BA management will come to an agreement which allows all parties to walk away claiming victory.

While the pilots were still negotiating alongside the notoriously underpaid cabin crews they were, to quite a significant degree, shielded from any accusations of greed or opportunism….but that shield is no longer there.

Now all the public sees is a group of well-paid professionals threatening to cause chaos during their summer vacations because they refuse to accept a pay offer that a lot of their lower-wage colleagues have accepted – that’s not the kind of optics the pilots want or need.

Right now, the pilots are starting to look like the bad guys in this story and that’s not going to do them any favors if they continue to fail to find a compromise solution with management…and that’s why I think a compromise will eventually be found.

Let’s just hope it’s found sooner rather than later!