BA pilots drop strike threat

British Airways’ pilots have dropped a threat to strike after their union Balpa withdrew from a High Court battle with the airline.

Balpa was seeking a ruling on whether an article of the Treaty of Rome could be used to stop pilots going on strike. It withdrew on Thursday on the fourth day of the hearing saying it feared a series of appeals would delay a final verdict and prove too costly. A long legal process was in any case likely to render plans for a strike irrelevant.

The pilots voted overwhelmingly for strike action in February over BA plans for a new subsidiary OpenSkies, which will fly between Continental Europe and the US – launching on June 19 from Paris Orly to New York JFK. The airline warned it would seek an injunction against any action under the Treaty of Rome, leading Balpa to go to the High Court.

BA has been recruiting pilots for the operation on contracts different to those of Balpa members. The airline insists this poses no threat to BA pilots’ terms and conditions, but the pilots remain unconvinced.

Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslem said: “After three days in court it became apparent  that win, lose or draw we could face appeal after appeal.” He said the union would campaign for a change in European law to prevent other employers following BA’s lead.

BA welcomed the union’s withdrawal and repeated a guarantee that OpenSkies “poses no threat to the jobs, pay or conditions of mainline pilots”.

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