UK pilot union BALPA is giving British Airways "one last chance" to negotiate on pay and benefits after the carrier lost a High Court bid to prevent strike action. Pilots on July 22 voted to strike over pay. The next day, a High Court judge ruled that the ballot had been issued correctly and that the result could therefore stand.
BA says it will appeal the judgement, but is also urging the union to return to talks. "We are very disappointed with today's decision," stated the IAG-owned carrier on July 23. "We will continue to pursue every avenue to protect the holidays of thousands of our customers this summer."
BALPA described the delay caused by the court action as frustrating. "BA could have spent this time coming back to the negotiating table instead of trying – and failing – to tie us up in legal knots," said general secretary Brian Strutton.
"We have still not set any strike dates to give BA one last chance to commit to negotiating on pilots pay and rewards with us at Acas later this week," he added.
Strutton says the two sides are due to hold talks under conciliation service Acas on July 26, but fears they may be postponed due to BA's legal appeal.
BA argues that its offer of an 11.5% increase over three years is "fair". BALPA warns that one day of strikes would cost BA more than what their pilots are asking for.
"The company itself has admitted that even one day of strike action would cost most than what our pilots are asking for, so the ball really is in their court here, to look after their pilots and ensure the hardworking public get to continue their holidays as planned," said Strutton.
KJM Today Opinion
by Kevan James
With revenue totalling $17296m in 2018 and 278 aircraft in service, an all-out strike grounding the airline would undoubtedly be a massive blow and at a time when most airlines are at their busiest.
That however, raises another question; why go on strike now? The obvious answer is that it causes maximum disruption to the employer, in this case BA. But it also causes huge disruption to people, many of them holidaymakers who will have saved up for some time to take much-needed time off and to travel somewhere they might possibly not have done before. On top of that there is probable disruption to business traffic which, given that business fares are usually much higher than that paid by those going on holiday, is the lifeblood of the airline industry.
And there is the key. The airline industry, very broadly speaking, is not known for strike action by those who work for air transport carriers (that's just airlines, not airport workers or others). The reason is very simple; in the days when airlines were mostly state owned and thus going out of business was virtually unknown, a strike could take place without much in the way of serious long-term consequence. That is not the case now.
Think back to 1991. In December that year the USA's Pan American went bust and closed down. Known around the world, the airline had always paid more than most and enjoyed good employee relations. The closure was not of course, due to strikes. The same however could not be said of Eastern Airlines, also of the USA.
American air carriers have always been privately owned and thus had to remain profitable or close. Eastern had as proud a pioneering as history as Pan Am and other US airlines but its last years were beset by strike action. Passengers abandoned the carrier and flew with other airlines, of which there were plenty. Northwest Airlines also had too frequent disputes between management and employer, as did Continental. Neither airline exist today.
There are not as many airlines flying as there used to be but there are still more than enough to keep passengers lost to British Airways. The same applies to Ryanair, also potentially embroiled in a possible strike.
Every time a passenger boards an airliner, they place their trust and faith in those at the sharp end of the aircraft. Pilots deserve to be paid well but strikes solve little except to drive customers to other airlines and the taxpayer is no longer around to pay the bills and keep an airline in business.
And no air carrier is too big to fail. Just ask those who used to work for Eastern.
Image - British Airways