For some months British Airways has been in negotiations with its trade unions, BALPA, GMB and Unite on a pay deal for staff.
The background to this is that BA has always negotiated separate pay deals with trade unions representing different work groups in the airline such as engineers, ground staff, cabin crew and pilots.
This year, BALPA, GMB and Unite submitted a joint pay claim to the airline arguing for a significantly improved pay offer and profit sharing arrangement.
This is due in part to the dramatic improvement in the airline’s financial health over the past ten years. Last year, BA reported an operating profit of £1,952m.
BA initially only offered a one year pay deal, citing uncertainty over Brexit. These have been resoundingly rejected by employees in consultative ballots.
Following further talks between the airline and trade unions which have not proved acceptable to the unions, it appears that the pilots union BALPA may be about to start a formal ballot for industrial action.
It is important to emphasise that at the time of publication, Wednesday 19 June 2019, BALPA has not made any official announcement.
However, BA is now clearly preparing for a possible strike ballot announcement as it has today issued guidance to travel agents to respond to customer queries.
Timing Of Possible Industrial Action
In terms of timings, it will take four weeks to conduct the ballot. Trade unions are then required to give two weeks’ notice of industrial action.
Therefore, there will be no industrial action in the next six weeks.
It is inevitable that there will be a strong mandate for industrial action based on a high turnout as this increases the union’s negotiating leverage over the airline. Whether this ultimately leads to industrial action is another matter. Very often disputes over pay deals can be agreed right up to the wire.
However, any pay offer by the airline has to first be approved by BA’s parent company International Airlines Group, which is likely to adopt a tough negotiating stance.
BA is unlikely to say much publicly, other than standard comments about wanting to work constructively with unions and that it remains open to negotiations and recommends talks at the conciliation service ACAS. It will only announce contingency plans and cancellations in the event of industrial action.