The union which represents most of British Airways pilots (BALPA) has confirmed that their members have reached a deal with the company concerning their job conditions including a pay cut.
British Airways is currently engulfed in several battles on the labor front and it appears that the pilots took the position that it’s better to be first to reach a reasonable deal with the company before they’re being thrown to the wolves and have their contracts cancelled entirely as threatened by BA Management.
You can read the press release of BALPA on their website here.
Release date: 31/07/2020
Pilots in British Airways have voted to accept the deal negotiated by BALPA in response to BA’s formal notification of 1255 pilot job losses and their threat to fire and rehire the remaining pilots on worse conditions. The deal means that there will be temporary 20% pay cuts reducing to 8% over two years and towards zero over the longer term. Regrettably, there will still be some compulsory redundancies which are currently estimated to be 270 although that number will fall as mitigations take effect. There will be no fire and rehire of pilots.
BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said “Our members have made a pragmatic decision in the circumstances but the fact that we were unable to persuade BA to avoid all compulsory redundancies is bitterly disappointing.”
The ballot result was 85% to accept the deal on an 87% turnout. British Airways employs 4300 pilots.
It’s good to see the pilots to be relatively unified in their decision to accept a deal at this point in time.
A 20% pay cut for a pilot even out over the next few years won’t hurt them much and at least they’ll be able to save their jobs and contracts overall.
The BALPA Twitter message reads a bit more direct than the PR speak in the press release:
“Our members have made a pragmatic decision in the circumstances but the fact that we were unable to persuade BA to avoid all compulsory redundancies is bitterly disappointing.”https://t.co/mDJnEWrlNx
— BALPA (@BALPApilots) July 31, 2020
It’s clear that they aren’t 100% satisfied with this deal but as I mentioned in a previous article regarding British Airways and their current standoff with unions, the bargaining power of unions has pretty much evaporated due to the Coronavirus. The airline is operating on minimum capacity and has way too much staff on payroll anyway, a strike wouldn’t hurt the airline much at this point.
In April, British Airways owner IAG warned it could cut up to 12,000 jobs due to the impact of Covid-19.
Staff were already warned that if agreement was not reached, they would be handed their notice and re-hired on new contracts if they wish to take it up. This would put staff in a take it or leave it position and many would likely struggle to find employment in other fields based on their niche qualifications and a tough labor market.
In times of crisis it’s a hell of a lot better to be first to make a deal and be out of the room before the worst happens. I feel that the pilots felt such a situation is imminent and the best (and only) way to protect their well paid jobs is to give in and reach a deal that hurts them the least while still being acceptable to most union members and the company.
From what’s being reported in the press it doesn’t appear that other workers groups are taking the same approach and their union bosses want to play hardball. This is a dangerous game and I fear the employees could very well end up on the short end of the stick. British Airways doesn’t have much to lose and I’m willing to bet that if a strike is called as threatened then Willie Walsh and Alex Cruz will fire everybody as per their prepared “fire and re-hire” strategy. By that time the pilots will have the ink dry under their agreement.