BALPA vs British Airways – Court of Appeal verdict on the pilot strike to be delivered at 10.30am on Wednesday

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The Court of Appeal (Civil Decision) has just finished hearing evidence in the case of British Airways plc vs British Airline Pilots’ Association.

This was an appeal against the decision given by Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing on 23rd July that BALPA’s strike ballot was legal.

The Court will announce its decision at 10.30am on Wednesday.

British Airways vs BALPA appeal

What are the grounds for appeal?

The crux of the appeal was this – whilst BALPA had provided British Airways with a list of how many pilots, by managerial grade, voted for industrial action, they did not provide this information split by long-haul or short-haul fleets and that BA requires this information to mitigate the impact of the strike.

The law states:

The trade union must take such steps as are reasonably necessary to ensure that—

i)  the lists mentioned in subsection (2A) and the figures mentioned in subsection (2B), together with an explanation of how those figures were arrived at

2A)  The lists are—

(a)  a list of the categories of employee to which the employees concerned belong, and

(b)  a list of the workplaces at which the employees concerned work.

(2B)  The figures are—

(a)  the total number of employees concerned,

(b)  the number of the employees concerned in each of the categories in the list mentioned in subsection (2A)(a), and

(c)  the number of the employees concerned who work at each workplace in the list mentioned in subsection (2A)(b).

Was it enough to list employees by rank (Captain, First Officer) as opposed to fleet?  We’ll find out at 10.30am.

The obvious point to make is that splitting by fleet is fairly meaningless.  An A380 pilot cannot fly a Boeing 747, so BA’s strike planning is not greatly helped by a having long-haul / short-haul split.  With over 90% of the combined fleet voting for strike actions, it is also clear that both fleets must have voted overwhelmingly for action.

The basis for the appeal was, frankly, thin.  On the other hand, it would also not have been difficult for BALPA to provide this information via another tick box on the ballot paper.

What happens next?

If BALPA wins, it may immediately announce a date for strike action.  It could have already announced a date, whilst waiting for the result of the appeal, but decided to give British Airways some breathing space.  Will they now announce a date or will they give BA another chance at arbitration?

My gut feeling is that, if I were BALPA, I would be concerned that this process has dragged on for long enough and it is time to raise the threat level.

If British Airways wins then BALPA will need to organise another ballot.  This takes 28 days – a seven day notice period to the employer that a ballot will take place, followed by a 21 day period for the ballot itself.

A strike itself requires another full 14 days notice, so – if BA wins – you won’t see any strike action until mid September.

If BALPA wins, the earliest date would be either two weeks on Wednesday or two weeks on Thursday, depending on how you define ’14 days notice’.

Let’s see what happens at 10.30am.

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  1. Miles. On point says:

    Selfishly I’m hoping that BA win appeal as that would put us in the clear for our Honeymoon (LHR-MEX in F) outbound flight on 3rd September. Once we’re in Mexico I wouldn’t begrudge having to stay there for a few extra days.

    I guess we shall see…

  2. The one pilot I know is utterly incensed by BA’s tactics and the feeling is that there needs to be at least a couple of days strike action before further arbitration just to focus managements mind.

  3. “The obvious point to make is that splitting by fleet is fairly meaningless. An A380 pilot cannot fly a Boeing 747, so BA’s strike planning is not greatly helped by a having long-haul / short-haul split.”

    Except that while it may have been 90% in favour of striking there are still roughly 900 pilots who did not vote to strike or are not BALPA members 4500- (90% x 4000) = 900. It may not be simply 90% of each fleet voted to strike i.e. maybe all of the 747 pilots voted against striking balanced out by all A319 pilots voting to strike.

    If BA knows how many 747 v 777 v 787 pilots voted in favour of striking tells you how many of those planes can’t fly hence which routes are most affected. It also allows BA to work out potentially how many Qatar planes to draft in as contingency.

    • BA is not asking for this data though. It is only asking for short-haul % vs long-haul %. That’s the point.

      • True but how many of the 500 pilots not BALPA members (and therefore not striking) are LH v SH?. If for example the split of LH v SH pilots in favour of strike action is weighted towards SH fleet it does show which fleet they need to concentrate on outsourcing. (80%LH + 100%SH) / 2 = 90%

        In my opinion I think BA will lose the appeal so it may well be irrelevant anyway.

        I am not a fan of striking but I do support the right to do so.

      • Doug M says:

        It’s the legal point, but instinct says they’d have appealed on any basis to buy time, this is not contingency planning it’s delay. If LH/SH info had been provided then would they have said they needed it by type of aircraft? Perhaps what they’d really like is a list of how each BALPA member voted so they can create a list for what they’d see as future retribution.

        • BSI1979 says:


          • The Original David says:

            I mean, if they’re bothered about punishing the individuals who support the strike, they could just wait and see who doesn’t turn up for work on the strike day.

          • Doug M says:

            Not necessarily those that vote though. You may vote against a strike but feel membership means abiding by the majority.

          • Yes, it’s like Brexit, you may have campaigned for Remain but you have to deliver Leave if this is the verdict… The future historians would call this the “May paradox”

      • Well strictly speaking the point is that BA wants to kick this out of the summer holidays and into Sep. They’ve seen an angle through which they think the law backs them, and have taken it. They’re not stupid, they know the majority will vote again the same way, they just want to avoid the publicity of ‘ruining family holidays’ (and it looks as if BALPA were stupid enough to let them). More fool them.

    • How far should a union go in assisting the employers to provide ‘contingency planning’ though? And why should they have to?

      • Doug M says:

        Right on brother. BA have it coming. They’re simply playing with BALPA to buy a little time, when the sensible thing to do would be to spend that time trying to find common ground. It’s not like pilots strike every year, BA clearly have no real intent to resolve this, and just resort to the attempted legal bullying. They’ll make endless statements about how they’re sorry that BALPA are causing the customers so many problems, when they don’t give two monkeys about causing customers problems for their own economic reasons. Sympathy for BA zero.

  4. Marko says:

    Rob, I was told BA Cityflyer would not be affected by a possible strike. Do you think LCY flights would operate as usual or would they move pilots to other non-LCY flights (not sure if that is possible from operational / admin perspective)?

    I got LCY-PRG booked for 16th Aug and inbound Aug 18. :/

    • Andrew says:

      You should be fine as BA LCY is a different company that operates a different fleet and so no interoperability.

      The one exception is BA001/2 LCY-SNN-JFK which is operated by BA “mainline” crew on an A318.

  5. Robert Bongo says:

    BA management, stop wasting finance in court room costs that could otherwise be used to support and accelerate a negotiated deal…The meaningless legal action policy you adopt every time your staff wish to pursue a strike within the boundaries of the law, only makes the eventual resolve more time consuming..
    Common sense and logic is needed here, don’t upset and aggravate what is the most pro company section of your workforce.
    In the interests of the customers whom you claim to represent and your shareholders alike, be professional and sort out a deal the most amicable way possible..

  6. Peter Alderson says:

    As all the pilots are BA employees BA should not need to be told which fleet they are assigned to. Clutching at straws I think!

  7. Launch of the new A350 and the fanfare with it could easily be short lived this autumn.

    1) Pilots Strike
    2) Airport staff strikes
    2) Extinction Rebellion protests

  8. ChrisC says:

    If BALPA does not need to know if it’s BA members work short or long haul as part of administering the union then under GDPR it has no right to collect the data and even less right to pass it on to BA.

    BALPA is not an extension of the BA HR and flight planning departments. A list of names and locations of those proposing to strike on particular dates should be enough for BA to plan its operations.

  9. Ian M says:

    If the pilots are unhappy with their pay (which would suggest BA are paying below the market rate), why not seek employment with another airline? Surely BA would soon start offering better pay and conditions if they had a shortage of pilots?

    Or perhaps BA already pay their pilots rather well?

    • Andrew says:

      A very naive point of view, trade unions and the right to strike is long enshrined in British history.

      • Ian M says:

        @Andrew, I strongly believe in the right to strike, I hope BA lose their appeal today.

        @Evan, no miles and points points in my comment, sure 🙂

    • Pointless comment.

      • TGLoyalty says:

        It’s not. It’s a valid point. Lots of pilots would love to work for BA and the pay rise that comes with.

        I don’t know the ins and outs but there are always two sides to these disputes.

    • Bagoly says:

      Pilots leaving for better pay seems to have worked at Ryanair in getting those who remained paid better.

      For Short Haul you may well be right that BA already pays pilots more than its competitors, but then the pilots need to live in easy access of Heathrow rather than Stansted, and the former is more expensive.
      For Long Haul there is the complication that BA is effectively a monopsony regarding Pilots who want to live in the UK.

  10. Mikeact says:

    I know nothing about the pay that pilots receive, apart from what I read in the press. My impression is that it’s very well paid, what with the many perks on top as well.
    However, I’m happy to be corrected .

    • marcw says:

      The key issue is that pilots have power. Without pilots, an airline doesn’t work – and nowadays it’s not easy to get more pilots.

    • A friend of a friend who was a first officer on Virgin claimed to be earning a lot more than that, and that’s going back a good 12 years or more.

  11. We have LGW-BOD booked on the 15th, on Avios…starting to get worried now!

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