Just In Time To Threaten Holiday Weekend
Calling the airline's plans to launch a new transatlantic
subsidiary a "Trojan Horse" that will lead to reduced salaries,
pilots at British Airways appear increasingly likely to strike
within the next two weeks... a move that could spell trouble for
thousands of passengers over the upcoming Easter holiday
Representatives with the British Air Line Pilots Association
(BALPA) announced this weekend they have the votes to launch a
strike, ahead of a ballot result due February 20. The action would
affect 3,200 pilots at the British flag carrier.
"We have got the vote for strike action. All the indications
from representatives is that members are very worried about the
future and are supporting the action," said one union
representative to The Daily Mail.
Though relations between both sides have never been especially
cordial, the rhetoric peaked recently with the airline's
announcement of a new subsidiary dubbed
"OpenSkies," which will take full advantage of an
impending change in legislation affecting flights between the
United States and Europe. The airline is due to launch luxury
service in June.
Pilots allege the airline plans to "massively outsource" flying
duties on OpenSkies to pilots with less training, for lower pay.
With those pilots in hand, the union says British Airways will then
pressure its mainline workforce to accept lower wages, as well.
"We have seen the evidence and what BA proposes is an attack on
current pilots and their families," said BALPA General Secretary
Jim McAuslan. "That is why we are vigorously opposing this
outsourcing. OpenSkies will be using BA planes and they should be
crewed by BA pilots... What is happening around the world is that
major airlines are setting up a subsidiary which starts with just a
few aircraft but which is rapidly expanded using outsourced
"The mainline pilots are then told they must cut back their own
pay and conditions to the levels of the subsidiary," McAuslan
added. "We have seen it happening around the world and we are
fighting to prevent it happening here in Britain. We are saying to
BA that we are drawing a line in the sand."
That line in the sand could come as soon as February 29. BALPA
will release the ballot results next Wednesday, and would announce
any strike plans the following day. Under British regulations, the
announcement serves as a seven-day notice to the airline, that a
strike is coming.
A spokesman for British Airways said
the airline is "disappointed" BALPA appears to be moving towards a
strike. "We have given BALPA assurances that OpenSkies will have no
detrimental impact on BA pilots," the spokesman said. "We hope that
these assurances will dissuade BALPA from initiating action that
would cause disruption for customers and harm our business.
"We have created OpenSkies because, for the first time, we are
being allowed to fly directly between continental Europe and the
US. This is an historic opportunity to strengthen and grow our
business, which is very much in the interests of customers and
staff," the spokesman added. "There is no change to the terms and
conditions for BA pilots, which are among the best in the
"We have told BALPA that we will offer secondments to BA pilots
wishing to work for OpenSkies, with their pensions and seniority
protected. We have asked BALPA to represent the pilots in the new