16 SEPTEMBER 2019

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Article from BTNews 16 SEPTEMBER 2019

COMMENT: No winners in this dispute

There can be no clearer indication of the state of affairs between the warring parties in the current British Airways dispute than the contrasting statements issued at the end of the week on what happens next.

BA said flatly: “We remain ready and willing to return to talks with BALPA.”

BALPA’s version: “BA did not respond to our latest proposals.”

It’s the same old story – waiting to see who will blink first. Meanwhile, it’s the passengers who suffer.

For an organisation that puts much store in image, BA cannot have been happy to see Wednesday’s summary in the communications industry’s bible PR Week under the headline ‘Striking pilots largely winning PR battle against British Airways’.

Conversely, passengers interviewed on TV have responded to claims that pilots’ pay is allegedly around £90,000 by questioning what BALPA is arguing about. One side is perceived as an unfeeling fatcat corporation, the other as a collection of overpaid fliers out to make as much money as they can. No winners there.

It is worth remembering in these matters that those outside the negotiations cannot know what is happening inside. It is in neither side’s interests to reveal tactics publicly. The downside of that is no one can trust any information that does emerge since it has probably been tainted by whoever has the biggest axe to grind.

The public statements have been predictably contradictory. As BA began cancelling flights ahead of the next strike on 27 September, BALPA said it had set a gap between the first and second periods of strike action “to give BA time to work with us to settle this dispute”. 

The statement continued: "We had today been exchanging new ideas to do that via ACAS and so it is irresponsible and inconsiderate to its customers that BA has pulled out and decided to start cancelling flights now, just to save money on compensation. BA did not respond to our latest proposals before cancelling these flights.”

BA on its website said: “Further industrial action by BALPA, the pilots’ union, is planned for Friday 27 September. We remain ready and willing to return to talks with them.” The airline said as a result of the threatened action, it had “reviewed our flying schedule”. Passengers travelling on impacted flights had been emailed.

Expanding its argument, BALPA said BA had cancelled flights now, two weeks before the next planned strike, because if it had to cancel them with less than two weeks' notice it would be obliged to pay passengers up to €600 each compensation under the EU law 261.

BA said cancelling flights now would prevent the sort of chaos seen in the initial 48hr strike at the beginning of last week when the airline was forced to cancel flights at the last minute. It also noted rival airlines had taken advantage of that situation and increased fares. 

As of last night, stalemate appeared to reign. The net result is passengers are bound to be lost as they turn to other airlines, shareholders too - which will include pilots - and of course aircrew as it begins to hit them in their pockets. It is true that until the dispute is settled there are no winners. To use an idiom (with a twist) "while the fur flies, there can be no resolution".  

(See also Flights axed ahead of new BA strike in this issue).

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