Court Rules In Favor Of British Airways Pilots Union

Filed Under: British Airways, Unions

Update: Strike dates have now been announced.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how talks broke down between British Airways management and their pilots union over a new contract. Management has offered pilots an 11.5% pay increase over three years, though the pilots want more, claiming they want their share of British Airways’ record profitability.

British Airways pilots voted for industrial action

British Airways pilots have been balloting over whether or not go on strike, and that ballot closed yesterday. British Airways pilots voted overwhelmingly for industrial action — 93% voted in favor of industrial action, based on a 90% turnout.

British Airways isn’t happy with the results, though, and today they went to the High Court to seek an injunction against BALPA, claiming that the union didn’t ballot properly.

It sure seems to me like management is being petty here, and is just hoping to delay a possible strike as much as possible. With 93% of pilots having voted in favor of industrial action, I think we all know how the pilots feel.

Anyway, there’s an update on this front.

Judge rules in favor of union

The judge presiding over the case determined today that BALPA balloted correctly, and therefore the ballot could stand.

British Airways is now going to the Court of Appeal to appeal the High Court’s decision, and it’s expected that this will be heard on either Friday or Monday.

BALPA General Secretary, Brian Strutton, said the following:

“While we’re pleased with the judge’s decision, we’re frustrated that time has been wasted. BA could have spent this time coming back to the negotiating table instead of trying – and failing – to tie us up in legal knots.

This delay will now continue with BA seeking to appeal against the Hight Court’s decision.

As a result it’s now likely the talks scheduled with ACAS on Friday will have to be postponed.

We ask that BA thinks hard about why 93% of our members feel so strongly about taking strike action.

The company itself has admitted that even one day of strike action would cost most than what our pilots are asking for, so the ball really is in their court here, to look after their pilots and ensure the hardworking public get to continue their holidays as planned.

Although legally clear to do so, we have still not set any strike dates to give BA one last chance to commit to negotiating on pilots pay and rewards with us at ACAS later this week.”

British Airways management issued the following statement:

“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% over three years is fair.”

When could British Airways pilots strike?

The union needs to give 14 days notice of a strike, so assuming they wait for a (presumably failed) appeal, a strike could start as soon as two weeks from either this Friday or next Monday. If that is indeed the case, we’re looking at August 9 or 12 as the first dates of the strike.

Hopefully management and the union can come to an agreement, because a strike would be a lose-lose…

  1. @ Ben — I support the union. 11.5% over 3 years in an environment of increased inflation, record profits and a pilot shortage is a joke. The union should do whatever is necessary to get its fair share.

  2. The dispute is not just about the pay rise it’s about BA still not paying back the pay cuts (not just no raise but an actual cut in salary in some cases of £5k) staff took after 9/11 and the financial crash that BA promised they would do ‘when things got better’.

    Well billions in profits the last few years means BA can well afford this pay rise. They can just cut management bonuses a bit and stop some of the wasteful expenditure that does nothing to improve the passenger experience or staff working conditions.

  3. I wish that the company could respond to a massive strike with a massive firing. What’s good for the goose….

  4. This reeks of pilot entitlement – “without me the airline can’t function”

    News flash – you may be harder to replace, and longer to train (by which you’re already better compensated) – but every employee is important and deserves their share of the record profits.

    This isn’t to say BA is correct either, IR is a complex field

  5. SC – cabin crew and ground staff are also in dispute with BA and are also being consulting and balloted by their unions on the pay offer and other issues (such as the non pay back of the pay cut).

    @JamesN – not under UK law you can’t. Taking part in a legal industrial action is protected from management retaliation. BA would soon find themselves back in an employment tribunal – and losing and having to pay out a large amount of compensation – to each and every person it fired who was taking part in awful industrial action.

  6. I’ve booked a BA flight from CDG -LHR on business then onto NYC in first class on August 13 using Alaska miles. If, knock on wood, the strike happens, do you know if Alaska would refund me the miles and taxes that I’ve paid for the flight?

  7. Management: “We will continue to pursue every avenue to protect the holidays of thousands of our customers”

    Every avenue *except* paying the increase, even if it costs us more in lost profits… We don’t care *that* much.

  8. “…not under UK law you can’t.”
    My exact point, they should be able to. In a free society they would have the option, as they should.

  9. Well JamesN the UK Parliament disagrees with you. As do Parliaments in many countries across the world who have legislated to uphold the right to strike in return from employees and their unions complying with the law.

  10. “Well JamesN the UK Parliament disagrees with you.”

    Is it truly that difficult for people to understand what I’m writing? Am I using a foreign language? Do you not understand the term “free society”?

  11. I am saddened by the naivety of many bloggers who never seem to understand the concept of cost benefit or financial accounting.

    “Well billions in profits the last few years means BA can well afford this pay rise. They can just cut management bonuses a bit and stop some of the wasteful expenditure that does nothing to improve the passenger experience or staff working conditions.” (ChrisC)

    The profits of the last few years are meaningless when you consider that any pay rise at this time will last forever. Each year, over and over,

    If the pilots (who have the most clout) get the 11.5% then every other bargaining unit will also take 11.5% as their negotiating base. So its not just about the salary of the pilots, it is the salary of every union employee in BA. A rise of 11.5% in the manpower costs will definitely create a huge problem with the bottom line, especially with fuel costs rising and utilization dropping. But the union wants more than 11.5%.

    Not knowing exact numbers but lets suggest the CEO makes a million pounds and the 1000 pilots make 100K each. An 11.5% raise will cost 11.5 Billion pounds per year. Where can you find that kind of cash by “cutting management bonuses as bit”? Gheesh – do the math a bit.

    If what has been stated is correct, it makes sense that the management should restore salaries and bonuses back to the level pre 9/11 and then negociate a reasonable salary increase on the restored base.

    But to say that BA made some money after years of losses thus the workers should get ALL OF IT is the kind of modern day entitlement that is going to kill a lot of good companies.

    To stay competitive, stay in business and provide employment for all the current employees BA has to resist unreasonable demands even if there will be a period of instability and industrial action resulting in some passengers being inconvenienced. They would be really inconvenienced if BA buckled and then went bankrupt. (Which, by the way, is the slippery slope of Alitalia and many other airlines that caved into unreasonable demands.) (Call me Greece and France as well)

  12. “Well billions in profits the last few years means BA can well afford this pay rise. They can just cut management bonuses a bit and stop some of the wasteful expenditure that does nothing to improve the passenger experience or staff working conditions.” (ChrisC)

    Lets do a reality check.

    BA has 3900 pilots on the books with an average salary of 87,000 pounds and 14,700 pound bonus. With an 11.5% raise that would cost an additional 45,612,450 pounds per year.

    Please tell me how “cutting management bonuses a bit” would come up with 47 MILLION POUNDS annually? Must be pretty good perks and bonuses!

    Of course we cannot underestimate the downstream effect. All the other unionized positions who are currently bargaining will not ever contemplate taking less than 11.5% raise if that’s what the pilots get (that’s what they feel is too unacceptable).

    Are you willing to pay 11.5% more for your next flight just to “pay the workers fairly”? I thought so.

    If BA is to stay in business they have to remain competitive. If they lose that battle everyone loses their employment and/or transportation option as a passenger. Just look at what happened to Alitalia.

    Returning the salaries to where they were before 9/11 might eminent sense and I have no way to make a reasoned judgement. Starting from that base perhaps there would be room for negociations that would not bankrupt BA.

  13. Yes I do understand that term.

    The U.K. has decided something that you don’t like viz not allowing employers to sack employees for taking legal strike action following strict balloting laws and timetables.

    Parliament did so by voting for such laws. Same as many other Parliaments have.

    That’s what a free society means. A society choosing laws to regulate itself not some freeforall.

    The US takes a different view on employment rights but BA is subject to U.K. employment law not US.

  14. A friend of mine was a Band 2 at BA. He got close to £22k in bonus last year, and he was not working that hard. I can see why pilots are disgruntled.

  15. James N you clearly don’t know what free society is.

    A truly free society is one where all actions can be taken. E.g. I can steal your money.

    In reality a free society has broadly accepted limits on behaviour (i.e. laws written by an elected legislature) such as giving employees some rights.

  16. Lucky, I appreciate your even handed account of the situation. Some other travel bloggers(hears looking at you Gary) push their own political agendas and it gets in the way.

    I hope this gets resolved soon so the pilots and passengers don’t have to worry.

  17. We are due to travel on the 15th August to miami, have not got a clue what to do., there are 7 of us going. For 3 of them first ever trip abroad.
    I have my toes and fingers crossed that we fly

  18. Given that BA have already admitted one day of strike by BALPA would cost it more than settling what the union is trying to get for the members I do wonder what the management are hoping achieve by being so intransigent.
    Other than making a point that they believe they will win. This I doubt.

  19. A strike is a loose-loose-loose. For the Union, for the Airline and most importantly for the customers.
    I hope they get this resolved, flying to Chicago Aug14 with family of 5. Urgh!

  20. Well this sucks, booked club world JFK-LHR-TXL scheduled to depart 14th of August. Knowing my luck this is the day the strike will start…

  21. Instead of permanent raises, how about tying the raises to profit sharing? That way when BA does well, pilots get more money and when economy takes a dive, BA isn’t on hook for a huge cash outlay. This way everyone wins.

  22. I called BA to ask them if my there is a strike what will happen to my flight and he assured me that all flights will be flying, the most that will be is just a bit delays.

  23. Pure profit sharing is a one-way street. The only true way of sharing the good with the bad would be receiving a share of the profits and also sharing the LOSSES.

    No union would agree. Just gimme the gravy in good times and keep paying it in bad times.

    An honest way would be to pay a bonus based on the profit. Oh – that’s already in the contract. (14700 pounds per pilot average).

    So what’s the beef?

    Already have profit sharing! Want more? Hmmmm

  24. What is missing from this discussion is the hardship both parties have inflicted on the people/companies that pay their salaries…their customers. BA executives and pilots have revealed their true colors to the public that is armed with social media and choices on who they travel with…. The entitled, highly-paid executives facing-off with the entitled highly-paid pilots over money in the public eye…guess what…both sides lose! As an impacted customer I am beyond disgusted with both and BA has lost my respect, goodwill, and personal and corporate business for life…and I am not alone.

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