British Airways pilots vote to strike

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The Independent Online

British Airways pilots have voted to go on strike in a row over pay and conditions, warning that the airline will be grounded if industrial action is taken, it was announced today.







The British Airline Pilots Association said its members voted by 86% in favour of walkouts in a dispute over BA's new subsidiary carrier OpenSkies.



The union claimed pilots in the new airline would be on lower pay rates and worse conditions, charges which BA denied.









Balpa, which represents around 3,000 BA pilots, said turnout in the ballot was 90%, which the union said reflected the concern of its members.

Any strike by pilots would be the first for almost 30 years and would threaten to disrupt flights over Easter.



Balpa said it supported the growth of BA and the launch of the OpenSkies service but claimed the airline intended to hire lower-paid pilots recruited from outside.



BA plans to keep their wages low even when OpenSkies becomes profitable, said Balpa, adding that pilots feared that pay and conditions for OpenSkies pilots would be used to force down their own pay and conditions.



General secretary Jim McAuslan said: "We have seen it happening around the world. BA pilots are determined not to let the same thing happen to them and to their families. That is why Balpa has drawn a line in the sand.



"BA pilots are saying loud and clear that they will not tolerate what has happened elsewhere.



"What BA pilots want is to have one pilot community for both the mainline and the OpenSkies subsidiary, with the same professional standards, equal opportunities for pilots to move from mainline to OpenSkies and from OpenSkies to mainline, fair promotion prospects and a safeguarding of BA mainline pilots' pay and conditions by the company giving us binding agreements."







BA said: "We are disappointed with the outcome of the Balpa ballot. We are calling on Balpa to accept our offer to involve the Acas conciliation service in a bid for a peaceful outcome to the unnecessary dispute.

"We have guaranteed to Balpa that OpenSkies does not represent a threat to the terms and conditions of BA pilots. We have offered to make these guarantees part of our industrial agreements with pilots."

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