BA pilots vote to strike over subsidiary airline plans

BA’s plans to launch new transatlantic subsidiary OpenSkies have prompted a vote for strike action by the airline’s pilots. 

The British Airline Pilots Association, which represents 3,000 BA pilots, says 86% voted to strike in a 90% turn-out. The union argues the airline plans to staff BA OpenSkies, a new BA venture, with crews on inferior terms to those of existing staff.

The union’s executive is meeting and no strike dates have yet been set.

Balpa says the terms and conditions at BA OpenSkies will drive down those for pilots flying BA’s main fleet. “We have seen it happening around the world. BA pilots are determined not to let the same thing happen to them and to their families,” the union said.

A BA spokeswoman said the airline was “disappointed” at the outcome. BA was not trying to undercut its pilot workforce and creation of OpenSkies would not change current pay and conditions or threaten jobs, she said.

“Our growth plans for BA at Heathrow and Gatwick mean we will be creating 300 extra pilots’ jobs over the next few years.”

The airline said it was willing to using the Acas conciliation service to resolve the dispute.

The Open Skies agreement was created by the US and EU regulatory authorities to eased restrictions on air travel. It allows any EU-based airline to fly from any city within the EU to any city within the US.

BA’s new airline plans to offer daily flights to New York direct from Paris and Brussels from June 2008, with further routes to follow.

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