British Airways pilots represented by the BALPA trade union say they would be prepared to call off potentially crippling strike action on the 9th and 10th of September if the airline agrees to more talks. Confusingly, British Airways says it has been willing to continue talks ever since the strikes were announced.
Over 93 per cent of union pilots have voted in favour of strike action in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions – the airline has offered an 11.5 per cent pay rise over three years but it’s understood that pilots also want a share save scheme included in the package.
If the strike does go ahead it will be the first mass walkout by British Airways in over four decades. The airline immediately cancelled hundreds of flights when the strike dates were first announced nearly two weeks ago, prompting many passengers to criticise BA’s response to the crisis. The Civil Aviation Authority even censored the airline over its failure to fulfil all of its legal obligations to customers.
But while BALPA says a walkout isn’t a forgone conclusion, there’s also increasing confusion over whether the two sides are refusing to talk to one another. British Airways maintains that it is continuing to urge BALPA to return to the negotiating table. On the other hand, BALPA says it has been forced to correct the airline’s “spin that there are talks with its pilots”.
While BALPA concedes that British Airways has been in contact, the union is unhappy that the airline’s chief executive Alex Cruz hasn’t offered an olive branch. Cruz recently told an investor meeting that he wasn’t getting personally involved in the negotiations but did then apparently made a promise to step in to find a resolution.
There have been no talks between the two sides since the walkout was announced on 23rd August and none are presently planned.
“Avoiding strike action and agreeing a deal with their pilots surely must be the desired outcome for British Airways,” explained BALPA general secretary Brian Strutton.
In a letter to Cruz, the union has put forward a new proposal which it says shows it pilots are “willing to be flexible.”
The problem now is that even if a deal is a struck, it will probably be too late to avoid mass disruption on the 9th and 10th September. A third 24-hour strike has been pencilled in for 27th September, although no cancellations have yet been announced for this date.