Virgin Atlantic pilots are set to strike over the Christmas period following dissatisfaction with changes to their contracts. The strike action comes following the Professional Pilots Union being left out of benefits talks. Now, according to reports, the strikes could be set to continue until March. Bloomberg reports that the PPU emailed them a statement saying strikes have been planned for the first eight weekends of 2019.
Existing Strike Action
The PPU was already planning several strikes that will last between 1 to 4 days. The first is set to take place over Christmas from 22nd of December to Christmas Day. The further strikes were planned for 30th December to January Second and the 4th to 7th of January. Despite previously telling passengers not to worry about the effects of strike action, it seems as though Virgin may be getting worried. The airline has now sought an injunction to block the first strike.
ACAS, an entity which mediates between unions and companies is reportedly in talks with both sides of the divide. Virgin is “reluctantly” seeking an injunction to stop the strike. The hearing is scheduled for 20th of December before the strike action is set to begin. Virgin Atlantic reportedly won’t negotiate with the PPU while strike action is being threatened.
Why Is The Strike Action Being Called?
Around a third of Virgin Atlantic pilots are represented by the Professional Pilots Union. Despite this, however, Virgin Atlantic reportedly refuses to recognize the union. The union said that it wasn’t included in talks relating to a change in pilot benefits. In fact, only BALPA, the British Airlines Pilot Association was consulted regarding the changes. 72% of PPU pilots turned out for a ballot regarding a strike, and of this, 71.5% were in favour of strike action.
When contacted by Simple Flying, a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told us:
“Our priority is to ensure that our customers can complete their travel plans this Christmas, regardless of any proposed industrial action from 16% percent of our pilots who voted for this. We’ve been working hard to ensure this remains the case and as a result, we have a number of contingency plans in place. We’ve secured additional aircraft that,if required, will provide extra capacity to make sure all of our customers can reach their final destinations. We continue to encourage anyone due to travel with us this week to check details of their flight at www.virginatlantic.com and ensure their contact details are added to their booking.”
They also told us that “the majority of pilots have agreed to work as planned or will take on extra work to protect flights” In order to ensure that flights continue to operate, Virgin has wet-leased a couple of aircraft. Being wet-leased means that the airline will not have to provide staff for the two aircraft. Virgin Atlantic told us “These aircraft will only be used if we need to boost our flying programme.” The airline said that it will re-evaluate their contingency plans should the strikes in January, February, and March go ahead.
Are you due to fly with Virgin Atlantic during the strikes? Let us know in the comments down below!