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British Airways pilots vote heavily in favour of industrial action

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After four weeks of voting BALPA, the British Airline Pilots Association has announced that British Airways pilots have voted in favour of strike action.

This follows a four week ballot that closed at midday on Monday.  The vote is over a pay dispute with British Airways, which offered an 11.5% pay rise over three years that was rejected by the union.

93% voted in favour of industrial action on a 90% turnout.

For comparison, the 2017 vote organised for Thomas Cook pilots by BALPA had an 88% turnout with 91% of pilots voting in favour.

BALPA represents 90% of the 4500 British Airways pilots, suggesting that around 4000 were eligible to vote.  Emails sent to members, seen by HFP, advised them not to vote in favour of industrial action unless they were 100% committed to walking out, so we have to assume that (93% of 90% of 90%) 75% of all BA pilots are willing to strike.

BALPA said:

“This strong result demonstrates the resolve of BA pilots, and shows BA that it must table a sensible improved offer if a strike is to be averted. Sadly three days of ACAS talks have not moved the company’s position one iota. Settlement of this dispute is in BA’s hands.
 
“We do not wish to inconvenience our customers which is why we have tried to resolve this matter through negotiation starting last November – it is BA who has regrettably chosen to drag this out into the summer months.”

“We currently do not have dates for any potential strike action and will issue an update on this in due course. We remain hopeful that this dispute can be resolved before strike action, but we remain committed to action if necessary.”

British Airways is heading to the High Court

British Airways is seeking a High Court injunction on Tuesday against any strike action, based on potential weaknesses in the balloting process.  This is par for the course in industrial disputes these days, however, and is not always successful.  In 2017 a similar legal challenge by Thomas Cook against the BALPA strike ballot was thrown out with the judge awarding BALPA all costs and refusing any right to appeal.

Even if the ballot is deemed unlawful, BALPA will simply re-run it after making the required changes to the wording or process so the ball is simply kicked down the road.

The union must give British Airways two weeks notice before commencing any action, which puts Tuesday 6th August as the first possible day of disruption.  Or perhaps Wednesday, depending on when they start counting the 14 days!

It is not clear what will happen next.  Irrespective of what British Airways would like to do, it will be virtually impossible to offer alternative flights to more than a small percentage of impacted customers.  Others airlines will already have full flights and there are few alternative aircraft available to charter at peak season.  The idea that one million passengers per week can be accommodated elsewhere is ludicrous.

It is more likely that passengers booked onto affected services will receive an email notifying them that their flight is cancelled and offering a refund.

Your travel insurance may prove inadequate if you have pre-paid accommodation or car hire.  The only positive news is that the CAA’s ruling against Ryanair last year means that EU261 compensation should be payable on top of your refund.

The difficult question is whether you should book a refundable back-up ticket on another airline now before the strike dates are announced and availability disappears.  You would be paying the high premium of a flexible ticket, but at least you can be sure you will be travelling.

There is a risk that back-up tickets booked ahead of any strike announcement will not be reimbursed by your travel insurance.  However, this is not guaranteed to cover industrial action in any event.  Even if it does, there is likely to be a clause restricting payment if you booked after the media first started reporting potential strike action.

In terms of Executive Club credit, British Airways policy during previous industrial action is that you WILL receive Avios and tier points for your flight, even if it is cancelled and you choose not to travel or are re-routed on a non-oneworld carrier.

We will keep you updated as we receive more information.

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Comments (245)

  • S says:

    any idea on the most likely strike date – i fly on 27th AUG 2-4-1 with 9month old to boot!

    will they target the bank holiday for maximum impact?

    • ChrisC says:

      you’ll just have to wait until BALPA announce dates

      They don’t have to announce them immediately just give 14 days notice.

  • ChrisC says:

    ***** BREAKING NEWS FROM BBC *****

    BA has failed in its High Court action for an injunction against BALPA

    • Mark says:

      No! Do they have to announce the strike during business hours. Anybody know the steps BALPA have to take to announce? Will this tomorrow?

      • ChrisC says:

        They have to give 14 days notice of potential strike dates

        Remember they want to pressurise BA not to actually go on strike.

      • Simon says:

        This is their press release:-

        The British Airline Pilots Association has said it is pleased it has successfully defended an application for a High Court injunction brought against it by British Airways in relation to its strike ballot of members.

        Today the judge presiding over the case determined that the pilots union had issued its ballot correctly and therefore the ballot result could stand.

        BALPA General Secretary, Brian Strutton, said:

        “While we’re pleased with the judge’s decision, we’re frustrated that time has been wasted. BA could have spent this time coming back to the negotiating table instead of trying – and failing – to tie us up in legal knots.

        “This delay will now continue with BA seeking to appeal against the Hight Court’s decision.

        “As a result it’s now likely the talks scheduled with ACAS on Friday will have to be postponed.

        “We ask that BA thinks hard about why 93% of our members feel so strongly about taking strike action.

        “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.

        “Although legally clear to do so, 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.”

        • Shoestring says:

          It is quite clear that the BA pilots really don’t want to strike and would much prefer to get a fair settlement.

          Stop panicking in the ranks!

        • Kipto says:

          Looks like flights up until 11th August are ok then ?

        • Adam says:

          “Although legally clear to do so, 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.”

          For me this is the key line

  • ChrisC says:

    ***** FURTHER UPDATE *****

    BA are appealing today’s ruling and it will be heard on either Friday or Monday

    BALPA have said they won’t announce any dates until the appeal has been heard and the the ruling given

    So the earliest a strike can happen is 14 days from Friday

  • Shoestring says:

    There are about 4000 BA pilots in this strike situation. Giving them each the £5000 they lost in ‘austerity measures’ would cost IAG £20m pa.

    I think IAG can afford it.

  • Anna says:

    Well the BBC are no help – all they’re interested in is some dude who apparently the new PM!! 🤣

    • Anna says:

      Though nothing really happens in parliament over the summer so maybe he can sort out the pilot dispute?