British Airways to resume talks with pilots’ union after losing legal challenge

Fresh talks between British Airways and pilots are set to go ahead in a bid to avoid strike action over a pay dispute after the airline lost a legal challenge.

The airline will meet with the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) from 3pm on Wednesday to continue negotiations after the Court of Appeal refused to grant an injunction to block industrial action.

The union has to give two weeks’ notice of any planned strike, meaning the earliest possible timing of a walkout in the event talks fail would be mid-August.

However, Balpa’s general secretary Brian Strutton said he was hopeful that a strike could be avoided after BA agreed to resume negotiations.

Mr Strutton said he was “very positive” going into the talks at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) and that the union will not be setting any strike dates.

BA said it would “pursue every avenue” to find a solution to avoid industrial action.

The legal action followed an announcement last week by Balpa that its members had backed industrial action by more than nine to one, on a turnout of 90%.

The airline went to the High Court in an attempt to halt the strikes, which it claims are designed to cause “the maximum in disruption” and could cost BA up to £40 million a day.

BA argued Balpa’s ballots did not comply with trade union law, but a judge in London dismissed the company’s application for an interim injunction to prevent strike action by pilots based at Heathrow and Gatwick.

That ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal on Wednesday, with three senior judges ruling that the ballot notice was in accordance with the law.

Speaking after the ruling, Mr Strutton said the legal action had been a “barrier” to making progress in discussions with BA and that the union hopes to resolve the dispute through negotiation.

He said: “Our imperative is to reach a peaceful resolution, it is not the desire of pilots to go on strike.

“I hope now the legal challenge is out of the way that BA will give renewed focus to trying to reach a deal.”

Mr Strutton added: “Setting strike dates would be enormously disruptive and our imperative is not to cause disruption to passengers or to BA, but to resolve this through negotiation.

“Now this has been decided, we have asked for BA to engage with us seriously.

“For the moment, we are not taking any decision about any possible industrial action, so at the moment there is no threat of disruption to the travelling public.”

He said the union will only consider taking industrial action in the event no progress is made during the talks, which will continue for the rest of the week, and that it has to give two weeks’ notice of any planned strike.

In a statement, BA said: “We are disappointed that the pilots’ union, Balpa, has chosen to threaten the holidays of thousands of our customers this summer with unprecedented strike action.

“We are very sorry for the disruption Balpa’s strike action will cause our customers.

“We continue to pursue every avenue to find a solution to avoid industrial action and protect our customers’ travel plans.

“Our proposed pay deal of 11.5% over three years is fair, and by contrast to Balpa, has been accepted by the members of the Unite and GMB trade unions, which represent nearly 90% of all British Airways colleagues.”

The airline urged customers to review their contact details by visiting ba.com or by contacting their travel agent, so they can be alerted in the event a strike is called.

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