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From a PR point of view this hasn’t been the greatest year for British Airways. It may be the airline’s centenary year but it has been a year littered with disputes between management and just about every group of employees with whom customers interact and things really came to a head when the airline’s pilots walked out for two days earlier this month.
Up until now there hadn’t been any signs that the third day of British Airways pilot walkouts (set for 27 September) wasn’t going to go ahead and the airline had already started canceling flights ahead of time to try to limit its liabilities.
It’s fair to say that the relationship between the pilots and management couldn’t really have become much worse…but now something has changed.
BALPA, the union representing the overwhelming majority of British Airways pilots has put out an announcement confirming that the walk-out on 27 September has been called off.
Here’s the full statement from the union:
The British Airline Pilots Association has today called off the next strike scheduled for 27th September in the dispute between British Airways and its pilots.
BALPA said the strikes on 9th and 10th September had demonstrated the anger and resolve of pilots. It was now time for a period of reflection before the dispute escalates further and irreparable damage is done to the brand.
BALPA hopes BA will now change its approach and negotiate seriously with a view to ending this dispute.
In addition, BALPA General Secretary, Brian Strutton, is quoted as having said:
“Someone has to take the initiative to sort out this dispute and with no sign of that from BA the pilots have decided to take the responsible course. In a genuine attempt at establishing a time out for common sense to prevail, we have lifted the threat of the strike on the 27th September.
“BA passengers rightly expect BA and its pilots to resolve their issues without disruption and now is the time for cool heads and pragmatism to be brought to bear. I hope BA and its owner IAG show as much responsibility as the pilots.”
Should BA refuse meaningful new negotiations, BALPA retains the right to announce further strike dates.
BALPA appears to be saying that it has willingly chosen not to proceed with the walkout on the 27th without having received any assurances from management about future negotiations and, based on how things have been playing out in the media, there’s no reason to believe that BA management’s position has changed in any way…so what’s going on?
The official line appears to be that BALPA is playing the part of the responsible adult in this dispute and wants all parties to show “cool heads and pragmatism” but I’m not sure I buy that.
My best guess is that one of two things had happened:
- British Airways management has made a new offer (or at the very least is making positive noises about a new offer) which is somehow being kept very quiet.
- The pilots’ appetite for another day of industrial action has waned considerably following the public backlash we saw after the two days of action last week.
I suspect the second scenario is more likely than the first and I also suspect that the pilots are keen to regain the moral high ground which they lost when their colleagues (flight attendants and ground workers) accepted a similar deal to the one the pilots are still rejecting.
The strike on the 27th may be off but this dispute is far from over. If, as I suspect, BA management hasn’t changed its stance I don’t see how the suspension of the strike on the 27th is going to help change management’s attitude now.
Somebody is going to have to give way or a deal will have to be reached which allows both sides to claim victory and, in the current climate, I can’t see either happening anytime soon – I wouldn’t be surprised if another strike day is announced before the year is out.