British Airways fails in bid to stop pilot strike this summer

Exclusive: Union boss promises no industrial action before mid-August – and says 'Nothing has been set yet'

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Tuesday 23 July 2019 19:50
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British Airways to appeal after strike injunction fails in High Court, says union boss Brian Strutton

After a day in court that lasted longer than some transatlantic flights, British Airways’ attempt to get an injunction against its pilots’ planned strike was rejected.

But BA immediately announced it would appeal against Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing’s judgment.

On Monday the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) announced that the vast majority of its members working as pilots for BA had voted in favour of a strike, in support of a pay claim.

The flight crew work at Heathrow, the airline’s main base, and Gatwick.

All but around 500 of the airline’s 4,500 pilots belong to Balpa. Nine out of 10 union members voted, with 93 per cent in favour of industrial action.

Any stoppage is likely to disrupt hundreds of thousands of travellers. On a typical day in August, BA carries around 130,000 passengers.

British Airways sought an injunction against a strike on the grounds of flaws in the ballot papers sent to pilots, and the union’s failure to provide the airline with details of the vote in each category of pilots – their rank and the fleet on which they worked.

The case in Court 16 at the High Court in London began at 10.30pm and ended shortly before 5pm.

After the decision, Balpa’s general secretary, Brian Strutton, said on the steps of the High Court: “I’ve just heard from British Airways that instead of coming back to the negotiating table with us they’re going to appeal.

“Now that means the next few days, maybe the next week, is going to be spent preparing for an appeal hearing, whereas I’d actually rather they came back to Acas and tried to find a resolution with us.”

“I can look you in the eye and say: we have set no strike dates. We haven’t. Because we don’t want to go on strike. We want to negotiate a resolution.”

Mr Strutton confirmed to The Independent that no strike will be announced before next Monday, 29 July. The union must give BA at least two weeks’ notice, so the earliest any industrial could begin is 13 August.

But he stressed that no dates have been set.

“I’m a bit fed up with all the speculation that’s saying, ‘Here’s the earliest date’ and starting to worry people.

“Nothing has been set yet. That’s the key message.”

A spokesperson for British Airways said: “We are very disappointed with today’s decision. We will continue to pursue every avenue to protect the holidays of thousands of our customers this summer.

“Our proposed pay offer of 11.5 per cent over three years is fair, and by contrast to Balpa, the Unite and GMB trade unions, which represent nearly 90 per cent of all British Airways colleagues, have already recommended the same pay offer to their members.

“We remain open to working with Balpa to reach agreement, which we have been doing since December, and we urge Balpa to return to talks as soon as possible.”

A date has yet to be set for the appeal.

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