The union representing the majority of British Airways pilots, the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), has announced the decision to pull the planned strike action for September 27.
BALPA announced back in August the strike dates following months of negotiations with the airline falling through over a pay and benefits dispute. More than 90 percent of the union membership (3,800 pilots) went on strike on September 9 and September 10 forcing the airline to cancel 1,700 flights affecting approximately 200,000 passengers.
The planned date for September 27, which has now been called off, was purposely chosen 17 days after the first set of dates to allow the union and airline to come together and sort out an agreement before another day of industrial action.
However, according to BALPA, British Airways are refusing to talk with the union and seem happy enough for the next strike to go ahead. BALPA General Secretary, Brian Strutton, said:
“Someone has 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. In a genuine attempt at establishing a time out for common sense to prevail, we have lifted the threat of the strike on the 27th September.”
He continued saying: “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 response to the next planned strike date, the airline began contacting passengers last Thursday, Sep 12, who were booked on any flights that were expected to be canceled. The decision to cancel flights as early as September 12 was to avoid any unnecessary EU261 payments the airline may end up being liable to pay to passengers for any cancelations within two weeks of departure.
A spokesman for BA said: “We have just received this news. We are considering the implications and we will give updates in due course.”
The decision by BALPA to cancel the strike seems to have caught the airline management off-guard, leaving them with an unusual option to try and rescue the flying program but operate those flights without the passengers they have already re-booked with other airlines resulting in significant operating costs across their worldwide flight schedule.
Although on the face of this decision by the union it may seem as if they are backing down, BALPA has re-iterated their will to announce further dates to strike on should no agreement occur, with the appropriate finances at their disposal to assist any pilots that may be affected.
It now appears the ball is in the airline’s court. A return to the meeting table will allow the union to propose what their membership is willing to accept. Should the airline continue to refuse to talk to BALPA or not listen to any proposals, then the union can simply walk away looking morally superior having tried to sort out the problem. More strike dates can then be announced putting the airline back into a position of proactively canceling flights and lose what’s left of passenger’s patience.
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