Pilots in British Airways are to ballot for strike action following the airline’s refusal to ensure that there is open access to jobs between BA and its new European subsidiary OpenSkies.The ballot is being held by the pilots’ union BALPA (British Airline Pilots’ Association) which represents almost all BA’s 3,200 pilots.
The decision to ballot was taken after weeks of abortive negotiations with BA. The notice was due to be served on 17 January but was delayed for obvious reasons. If subsequently endorsed by members in a ballot it would be the first strike by pilots in BA since 1980.
‘We hope the BA leadership will think again,’ said BALPA General Secretary Jim McAuslan.
‘This is not about money; and it is not about safety (whatever today’s Times headline writers might think). BALPA is explicitly not linking the events of BA038 with this dispute.
‘We have been prepared to accept that a new service will need lower costs to build business and that BALPA would be able to crew the service to meet the BA business case, but we are not prepared to see the pilot body broken up in the way BA plans and are bemused as to why they will not use BA pilots.
There are fears, borne out by BA’s intransigence, that BA’s real aim is to start an outsourcing programme that will eventually force down BA pilot conditions.
‘We believe there should be one pilot body for BA and its subsidiary so that there can be fair promotion opportunities, a cohesion of the pilot force which is so important in a safety critical industry and a safeguarding of BA’s brand.
‘OpenSkies is being set up with BA money, will fly BA planes and draw on the BA brand; and a brand is more than a tailfin, it is about its people and the BA pilot community is making a stand to protect that brand. This is a line in the sand.’