Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Virgin Atlantic pilot strike would damage carriers unique culture

Virgin Atlantic Airways founder and Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson warned that a pilots' strike would leave "an indelible scar" on the airline, "impact customers' trust" and "damage the unique and friendly culture at Virgin Atlantic."

He called on the British Airline Pilots Assn., the union representing most VS pilots, to re-engage in talks with management to resolve the matter. BALPA is expected to announce dates for an industrial action Tuesday following a clear vote in favor of striking over pay. Results of a vote on a possible strike action were announced last week, with BALPA revealing that 97% favored a work action in balloting that featured a "massive" 94% turnout.

BALPA represents some 85% of VS's 750 pilots; it is the first time in the history of the UK airline that its pilots have voted in favor of industrial action over pay."Pilots do not want to strike and are hugely disappointed by the company's approach. There has been no UK pilot strike for 32 years. But there comes a time when even moderate people say 'enough'," BALPA General Secretary Jim McAuslan commented.

In an open letter to the pilots, Branson said he was "extremely sad" about the strike threat. While offering to meet them for private talks, he forewarned that the strike "will affect jobs and it will make it very difficult for the company to afford the current offer on the table."

He continued, "We are already losing business from this and are in danger of losing money again this year if the uncertainty of those travelling lasts much longer. Just look at what happened at BA over the last few years." He said he looked at the details of "your offer and believe it is fair. From the company's point of view possibly a little too fair! … Whilst on the subject of fairness I think it's worth you knowing I have taken no salary out of Virgin Atlantic since 2005.

Since Singapore Airlines bought into the company 10 years ago both of us have invested more money into the airline than we've taken out to deal with crises like 9/11 and to fund vital products and service innovation. Despite this I am still committed to continuing to support Virgin Atlantic through difficult times provided those difficulties are not self-inflicted."

(Cathy Buyck - ATWOnline News)

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