Pilots at two major British airlines are now said to be threatening crippling strike action over the Christmas holidays in growing disputes over pay and conditions. The latest threat of a Holiday walkout comes from Virgin Atlantic pilots who are represented by the Professional Pilots Union (PPU) and comes nearly a year since their last call to down tools was stopped by a judge at the last minute.
According to tabloid newspaper The Sun, a strike ballot was sent out to all PPU members working at Virgin Atlantic on Monday. The ballot is set to last for two weeks and if pilots back a walkout the union would have to give at least 14-days notice. Virgin Atlantic does not formally recognise the PPU and has refused to take part in negotiations with the union.
Around 350 of Virgin Atlantic’s 1,000 strong pilot workforce are members of the PPU. Many others are members of the BALPA union which is currently running a high-profile campaign amidst a growing dispute with British Airways over pay and conditions.
Last year, the PPU called a series of three-day strikes which were meant to start in the run up to Christmas but were blocked just two days before by a High Court judgement.
Virgin Atlantic had challenged the PPU’s call to strike on three technicalities – the judge upheld one of those points about the PPU failing to provide the airline with the ranks and type rating of those pilots who would be going on strike.
Earlier this year, British Airways had tried to obtain an injunction against a BALPA-led pilot strike under similar circumstances but lost both the initial case and an appeal. Two days of strike action by BA’s pilots have cost the airline €137 million. BALPA called off a third day of strike action which was meant to take place at the end of the September in a bid to break a deadlock between the two sides.
British Airways says they have not yet had any more talks with the union.
The union is now said to be considering more walkouts in a bid to increase the pressure on British Airways to do a deal. One option includes a 10-day “mega strike” – a rumour that was previously rubbished by the union but has since apparently built traction.
Possible dates for the next strike include the next break in the school term for UK pupils – which would mean an announcement coming in the next few days. The second option is a Christmas strike just like those planned by Virgin Atlantic’s pilots.