Court Of Appeal Approves British Airways Pilot Strike

Filed Under: British Airways, Unions

Update: Strike dates have now been announced, though ended up being called off for September 27.

We’re one step closer to British Airways pilots going on strike, though goodness this sure is drawn out…

British Airways pilots plan to strike

A few weeks ago I wrote about how talks broke down between British Airways management and their pilot union over a new contract. Management had offered pilots an 11.5% pay increase over three years, though the pilots wanted more.

The pilots voted overwhelmingly for industrial action — 93% voted in favor of industrial action, based on a 90% turnout.

British Airways wasn’t happy with the results, though, and went to the High Court to seek an injunction against BALPA, claiming that the union didn’t ballot properly. That didn’t work out well for them, and the court ruled in favor of the union.

British Airways appealed this decision, and their case was heard yesterday, with the decision being made this morning. So, what happened?

British Airways loses appeal

There’s news this morning that British Airways has lost their appeal. So the High Court ruled in favor of the pilots, and the Court of Appeal maintained that ruling.

What was the appeal based on? Basically, BALPA provided management with the breakdown of how many captains and how many first officers voted for and against industrial action.

However, they didn’t provide the breakdown of how many short haul and how many long haul pilots voted each way, which management apparently wanted.

Of course this is completely immaterial — with 90% of pilots participating, and 93% of pilots voting in favor of industrial action — it doesn’t matter the break down. It’s safe to say that both short haul and long haul captains and first officers want a strike.

Clearly management was hoping to get off on a technicality here, and cause that to delay the strike. They probably hoped that they would have to ballot again, which would lead to the strike being delayed by several weeks.

What BALPA says

BALPA’s General Secretary had the following to say:

“The Court of Appeal has today rightly dismissed BA’s attempt to injunct this industrial action on a technicality.

BA’s attempt to defeat the democratic view of their pilots in court, rather than deal with us across the negotiating table, has sadly wasted huge amounts of time and money that could have been put into finding a peaceful resolution. Now the window for negotiation and compromise is closing fast.

BA need to wake up to reality. Our ballot returned 93% in favour of strike action. There is a serious issue here and BA has so far refused to help us tackle it.

On BA’s own figures submitted to the court, even a single day of strike action will cost far more than we believe it would take to settle this dispute.

However, BALPA wants to resolve this matter through negotiation and so we are not announcing strike dates. Instead, we have called on BA to hold further talks at ACAS and they have agreed to meet at ACAS today and for the rest of this week for one last try to resolve this dispute by negotiation.

We have spent four days in talks at ACAS already, and BA refused to move their position one iota. But we hope they now recognise the seriousness of the situation and will work positively with us to find a way forward.

We are not announcing strike dates today. In any event we are required by law to provide BA with 14 days’ notice of any proposed strike action.”

Now what?

The pilots are now allowed to declare a strike, and they have to provide 14 days notice, so that could start around mid-August. However, management and BALPA have agreed to meet again today and plan to negotiate through the end of the week.

Perhaps management will come around a bit this time, since they realize the pilots are now in an immediate position to declare a strike, which perhaps they’ll take more seriously.

So we could be just over two weeks from a strike, or we could see management and pilots come to an agreement…

  1. 11.5% already seems like a massive increase. Are there other issues at stake?

    The union people need better writers for their press releases. 🙂

  2. The main issue at hand is a bonus scheme called ‘gain share’.

    Although it seems more a battle of wills than money. BALA have said one day of IA by pilots would cost BA as much as giving them what they are asking for.

    The problem is, the pay deal is a company wide one. If BA betters the offering on the table for the pilots they have agreed to apply that better offer to all staff. Something they’ll want to avoid.

    BALPA have told members they will not announce any strike dates until they give mediation another go with ACAS next week.

  3. In a free society, BA would have the right to respond to the threat of a mass strike with any number of tools, up to and including a mass firing.

  4. @Chucky it’s 11.5% over three years, or 3.83% per year. Inflation in the UK was 3.6% in 2017 and 2.5% in 2018. I have to imagine the cost of living in and around London is increasing even more than this. All of that makes a 3.83% annual raise totally unremarkable.

  5. @James N
    They can fire half of their pilots if they want, now how are they going to replace them?
    The whole reason the pilots can strike is because they know there’s a shortage globally, training takes a long time and any pilots that are brought on quickly to replace the BA ones will likely command a premium beyond what the BA pilots are demanding.

    If you want to see what happens when the employees have less power look at (even relative to other cabin crew) the conditions of BAs cabin crew are.

    Truth be told what you clearly want is a very unfree society where the employees can’t strike. In a free society, as the UK is, the pilots can strike and take the cost of losing pay, the potential for job losses because of company losses if they want. They clearly see that they have enough power, and IAG is a strong enough company to withstand a less profitable summer, and that the outcome of potentially better terms is worth it. And they’re FREE to take that position.

    As for BA, all they’ve done with their hail mary is piss off the people they’re bargaining with.

  6. “Truth be told what you clearly want is a very unfree society where the employees can’t strike.”

    It fascinates me when people appear unable to understand a basic term. Also, your “argument” is basically a straw man and doesn’t address my point.

  7. The UK is a free society.

    BA DOES have the right to fire all the pilots.

    And then the pilots have the right to take BA to an industrial tribunal for unfair dismissal.

    So what will BA gain out of this? Hundreds of grounded aircraft and millions in compensation to an industrial tribunal. Clever.

  8. What is missing from the comments is the impact on passengers who are basically being held hostage until the ransom is settled. That’s hundreds, may be thousands, of passengers who will be left without a flight and without compensation as well as the ripple effect of people not making it to their destinations and the costs involved there. And all over who can piss the furthest

  9. @Chucky – unfortunately interpretation of the law is not an objective task and the appeals of the people are there for that exact reason – to sway the subjective part of us. So yes, the court did show support regardless of whatever objective language you care to use.

    Unfortunately, quiet methods do not always have an impact and therefore, the society should learn to embrace protests – the greatest form of exercising one’s democratic freedom. I wish the population in the US today was more accepting of protests and walk-offs to fight for workers’ rights. Yes, this has major impact on a lot of us, but that is not justification for those demanding better wages and rights to continue working. Therefore, it’s hardly a simple pissing contest as someone commented.

  10. Yay they missed the 14 days notice for my flight on the 12th of Aug.
    And tomorrow they’ll miss the 14 days notice to my flight to france for the holidays yay…….

  11. Pilots are very well paid already. I am envious of some of the paty rates (150,000+ GBP) and yet they want more!

    Passengers get screwed by strikes and will have to swallow higher fares in future, hurting people like me who want affordable travel.

  12. After reading this I continue to feel sick in my stomach thinking of the thousands of dollars I have wrapped up in a trip for four of us in the Cotswolds and London leaving August 21st from Boston.

  13. They’ll be desperate at this point because they definitely don’t want a strike on August 19th.

    It would be a horrible way to celebrate your 100th birthday.

  14. I’ve been looking forward to my holiday in September for weeks and now I dare not even think about it for fear I’m going to be caught up in all this. BA lost me 15 hours at the start of my holiday last year due to delays. I said I wouldn’t fly with them again if I could help it. But I chanced booking with them again this time and look what’s happening. We work hard all year round looking forward so much to our holidays. I can’t afford to lose all the money I’ve spent on my flights for this. I pray this all gets resolved before innocent passengers start paying the price…

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