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CANCELLED (updated 20/9): British Airways pilot strike on 27th September is called off in a bizarre BALPA move

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If you are holding an industrial dispute – or indeed any sort of dispute – standing your ground is one of the keys to success.  Once you are seen as weak, your opponent realises that it has the upper hand.

I mention this because it was my gut reaction to the announcement that the British Airways pilot union, BALPA, has called off the strike on 27th September.

The reason for cancelling the strike is bizarre.  It is NOT because British Airways has returned to the negotiating table.  BALPA claims that it has cancelled the strike because BA is NOT willing to negotiate, which makes zero sense to me.

What is BALPA expecting now?  That British Airways will be rushing back to negotiations?  I’m not so sure.

British Airways strike off

British Airways has now reinstated a percentage of its schedule for 27th September.  If you had been transferred to another flight, either on BA on a different day or on another airline, you have the option of moving back.  If you accepted a refund, British Airways can rebook you for the price you originally paid.  What BA cannot do, of course, is move you back if you took a refund and then paid to rebook on another airline.

Who knows where this goes now?  This is the full announcement from BALPA:

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.
 
BALPA General Secretary, Brian Strutton, 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.

You can keep up to date with the strike news on this page of ba.com.

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Comments

  1. Unsavage gerbil says:

    Short term losses, have you any idea how much a 10 day strike by Pilots would cost BA? The number regarding profit sharing would pale into insignificance compared to the cost of a prolonged strike, let alone long term damage to BA staff morale, public perception of BA management, and long term reputational damage.

    • That might be true if this was a one off but if BA give in because a 10 day strike would cost more than a 7% profit share then next year the pilots will be wanting 10%, and the year after 20%. BA have to draw a line somewhere.

      • Paul Pogba says:

        So BA should draw the line at nothing? The pilots were reasonable in taking a pay cut during hard time, it shouldn’t be one sided.

        • Lady London says:

          I think the issue will be with the structure of the profit sharing – on principle BA probably (and IAG definitely) doesn;t want to introduce a profit sharing scheme.

          Otherwise I am sure something would be able to be agreed. the 7.5% proposal for the amount of profit sharing made by BALPA, is just a proposal. Everyone knows it would be negotiated well down.

          I am certain BA / IAG’s issue is firstly with the principle of sharing profits with workers in the first place as a proper profit sharing scheme. and then the structures of profit sharing schemes do take a bit of time to work out as well… preferably with the threat of strikes removed if the structure of such a scheme can be agreed within, say, one year.

          Remembering that a major fear of BA is that the fact of introducing a profit scheme spreads to other staff within BA. IAG will consider the fact the other airlines/groups of essential and hard to replace staff may want it, in their other airlines within IAG.

          So the issue is not the 7.5%, that;s just an opening negotiating number. It;s the very fact of sharing profits with the workers (that made concessions in bad times and BA did not give the money back as promised in the bad times) that BA has a problem with.

          I hope BA suffers for this because they’ve been dishonorable and employed bully boy tactics and obviously succeed in treating lower level staff than the pilots, who are less essential and cumbersome to replace than the pilots, quite badly.

  2. BA managed to delay the onset of strikes beyond peak summer holiday dates and one suspects they, as Thatcher did, saw a fight as inevitable but best when they could sit out any strike more comfortably.

    If BALPA looking to exact maximum leverage they will, failing meaningful concessions, eventually announce new strike dates for peak Christmas dates.

    • Lady London says:

      I’d suggest BA agrees to the principle of introducing a profit sharing scheme that would at least cover the pilots, capped at x% 2.5%? 3% ? not more, of EBITDA or some other more predominantly revenue related measure (not after tax, depreciation, and all sorts of funny financial manipulables) to start no later than 1 January 2021 or earlier date of BA’s next financial year.

      Milestone to have the full structure of the scheme agreed by June 2020. If not completed then will be taken as a sign of bad faith by BA/IAG. Otherwise an immediate strike ballot and withdrawal of labour to take place from August next year – and this time really go on strike in August instead of giving away that major advantage..

      • Would the staff agree to return money in loss making years? Would they say it was poor management and not their doing? Because it then follows that the making of profits wasn’t their doing either.
        I have sympathy with the pilots, just asking the question.
        My sympathy with the pilots doesn’t extend too far, if they’re as skilled and special as they say then there should be plenty of opportunities for them. I have much greater sympathy with MF and their pay and terms.

        • This hits the nail on the head. If the pilots want to have a share of the profits.. start up an airline and take the risks of being a buisiness owner.

          As a small business owner, I understand the need to keep staff happy etc, but I totally disagree with strikes by employees. If they don’t like the contract of employment they are on, they should find another job instead of causing misery and distribution to thousands. I’m sure there a plenty of people who would be happy to train as a pilot and earn as much as they do…..

        • Lady London says:

          Staff suffer in other ways during downturns.

          Not just the pilots being asked to forego £5K of their existing pay, in the aftermath of 2001 business conditions, with the promise made by BA that the money would be reinstated when the good times came (and the good times have been long enough years now, and BA did not return the money as promised to the pilots.

          Factually as employees, during downturns pilots are at risk of losing their jobs due to contraction of the amount of business being done, of having no career development because there is no expansion in the firm, of having any informal privileges and comforts that are not contractual, removed, etc. But most of all they can lose their jobs and prospects even if they individually have performed and contributed to the business. So in that sense, an employee is always more at risk than an owner. And an employee and not an owner of capital in their job role, the employees haven’t creamed off dividends for years that are already banked, to see them through being laid off etc. , as owners can. So I think the employees take quite enough risk already, and are much more subject to unfairness that is not related to any nonperformance on their part, than owners.

          Additionally the pilots were asked to contribute £5K in bad times and did, which implies a shared responsibility for profits. This was supposed to have been returne din good times as BA proimised to do btw, and BA still hasn’t given it back.

          So why should shared responsibility for profits only be, shared responsibility for profits if they are negative??????? The pilots already take employees’ risk, in their jobs. Why add negative profit risk, without adding at least some small upside for positive profit risk?

          BA has to be fair.
          Mixed Fleet had better hope the pilots get some share in positive profits out of BA by measures including this strike. Because if even the pilots dont succeed, and they are the most powerful group of needed personnel in BA that is cumbersome to replace, then G** Help Mixed Fleet or anybody else with less power, if they need to ask BA to be fair in the future. So for everyone, I hope the pilots succeed in getting some share related to when times are good. Otherwise this one is going to sullenly burn for years.

    • Lady London says:

      Pilots need to hit BA across key business routes at peak business times. Business travellers (corporates) are BA’s soft underbelly. BA wont allow action to continue or repeat, that makes choosing BA to fly on become an un reliable choice for those needing to fly on business.

      Only if the resentment at lack of fair résolution is long drawn out, should pilots contemplate striking in peak summer or Public Holiday weekends. The pilots rightly decided doing that this summer would earn widespread consumer resentment and bad publicity and turn thé public against them.

      At Bank Holidays is one of thé few times lots of business people that fly for work, really get to talk to their kids and talk to their partner about things that are not day-to-day things. Take that away from business people and thé resentment will overflow into which business airline they want to fly on. Plus ruining anybody’s annual holiday with family is not ‘cool’ either.

      So hit all business routes, in key business months, as that hits BA where it hurts.

      Please BA be reasonable and put some kind of external success-related schème in place. And please take an opportunity to stage when thé pilots get the £5K they lent you, back when you asked them to share that with you in thé BA’s times. A statement from you on that, BA, light go a long way to showing ‘good faith’ from your side.

  3. just did some dummy bookings on the BA website – it looks like they are reinstating some of their flights on 27th

    • Potentially although some will be part of the skeleton service they’d planned in any case (GVA for example has one ex-LHR rotation currently showing as bookable but that’s been bookable all week).

  4. I am with those who believe this is a wonderful way to promote BALPA as “caring” while doing max damage to BA. However pleased cancelled as will fly back from Durban OK. (Possibly slightly disappointed not to be trying out Qatar or SAA club instead!) Time to enjoy T5 galleries before heading out there.

  5. BALPA is a toothless Tiger more or less controlled by BA. Management wins as per usual. Remember that BALPA takes a minimum of 1% from their members salary. Unfortunately there is no alternative to Pilots for a Union. Sad but true!!

    • Wow! So much more than the academics union I’m a member of, but then we don’t earn such salaries either..

  6. Shoestring says:

    updated again
    Important update if you are flying next week
    Last updated 20 September 2019, 15:30

    The pilots’ union, BALPA, has called off its strike action planned for 27 September.

    If your flight was cancelled as a result of this industrial action, you now have the option to rebook on to a British Airways flight operating between 26 – 28 September, subject to availability. Please call us to discuss your options and rebook.

    Please contact us on:

    0800 727 800 (from within the UK)
    +44 (0)203 250 0145 (from outside the UK)
    If you booked via a travel agent please contact your travel agent directly. If you booked a flight as part of a British Airways Holiday please contact us on the number above.

    • Lady London says:

      Ba have obviously thought about it and decided there is enough time to refill enough of the planes to make it worthwhile reinstating flights. And, importantly, they are also trying to recover passengers who may have succeeded in getting themselves ticketed on other airlines due to the previously announced strike.

      I would have done the same for a one-day strike, as BA has done, also due to the positioning effects on days either side.

      I wonder how many people rebooked onto Lufthansa, Swissair, Cathey etc., are going to get their flights reinstated to BA on 26-28th September?

  7. Shoestring says:

    British Airways will operate more than half its normal flight schedule next Friday after a pilots’ strike was called off. Although BA had stopped selling tickets for 27 September, it will merge services and operate more than 400 flights on the day.

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