The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) late on Wednesday called off a September 27 strike involving members working for British Airways (BA). The unilateral move was unexpected given that neither the union nor BA’s management had indicated any signs of conciliation following earlier strikes on September 9 and 10 that resulted in the cancellation of more than 1,700 flights worldwide.
In response to the announcement, BA said it is “considering the implications for its schedule” but made no immediate offer to resume negotiations with pilots. Last week, the company preemptively started canceling flights scheduled for September 27 in a bid to manage the anticipated disruption.
BALPA said the strikes on September 9 and 10 had “demonstrated the anger and resolve of pilots” and called for a “period of reflection before the dispute escalates further and irreparable damage is done to the brand.” The union has a mandate from its members to call further strikes through January 2020 and says will plan further strike dates if BA management does not restart “meaningful” negotiations.
“Someone had to take the initiative to sort out this dispute and with no sign of that from BA, the pilots have decided to take the responsible course,” said BALPA general secretary Brian Strutton. “BA passengers rightly expect BA and its pilots to resolve their issues without disruption, and now is the time for cool heads and pragmatism to be brought to bear. I hope BA and its owner IAG show as much responsibility as the pilots.”
In a BALPA ballot held in July, 93 percent of BA pilots voted to support strike action after rejecting the airline’s offer of an 11.5 percent pay raise spread over three years. The union, which represents around 90 percent of the airline’s 4,000 pilots, has argued that staff should receive elevated rates of compensation in recognition of the fact that they agreed to take cuts when the company struggled financially.
For 2018, parent company International Airlines Group reported a €3.23 billion ($3.6 billion) operating profit in February 2019, of which BA accounted for €1.9 billion. The Unite and GMB unions, which represent other BA works, have agreed to the management’s proposed pay increase. BALPA also has raised objections to cost-cutting at the airline, which it says has resulted in service levels being “dumbed down.”