There’s a new twist in the incredibly long-running dispute over pay and conditions for thousands of frontline staff at British Airways. With pilots now given the green light to proceed with strike action and crunch talks set to continue over the weekend, Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA’s parent company has confirmed any additional concessions handed to pilots will also be extended to cabin crew, ground staff and engineers.
Speaking to shareholders, analysts and journalists as the aviation group presented its second-quarter financial results, Walsh tried to strike a conciliatory tone, praising BA’s pilots for the “great job” they do and their professionalism.
“I don’t like giving running commentaries when there’s negotiations ongoing but personally I do need to acknowledge that BA pilots do a great job, they’re very professional,” Walsh responded to one question.
“We know they have issues that have upset them but if I looked at the pay offer that BA has made I think it’s a generous and fair offer. This is being managed by BA, I’m not involved in it, I won’t be involved in it. This is for Alex (Cruz) to resolve,” he continued.
British Airways has offered its pilots an 11.5% pay rise over three years which the airline describes as “fair” and industry-leading. The deal has already been accepted by thousands of other frontline staffers including cabin crew and ground staff. However, pilots broke away from a joint union negotiating group earlier this year.
Walsh, who previously headed British Airways, was later reported to have said that he wouldn’t have offered such a “generous” offer if he had still been at the airline’s helm.
“If I was on the management side I wouldn’t have made such a generous offer. And if I was on the pilot side I would have grabbed it,” he was reported to have commented.
Rumours suggest pilots, led by the BALPA union, are unhappy that a ‘secret’ bonus scheme would be curtailed under BA’s new offer so opted to ballot for strike action. British Airways attempted to get a High Court injunction to prevent a strike but lost both the initial hearing and an appeal.
BALPA has not yet issued any dates for possible strike action, instead saying that it wants to resolve the issue through talks rather than taking industrial action.
It’s now understood that under a special clause of the joint pay claim, British Airways will have to extend any additional concessions won by pilots to both cabin crew and ground staff.
Alex Cruz, chief executive of British Airways yesterday said the airline had been held “very productive conversations” with the BALPA union at a government mediation service. Negotiations are expected to continue over the weekend in order to reach a deal.