A pilots’ union is set to hold a ballot for industrial action at Virgin Atlantic, which may see flights affected over Christmas and the new year.
Notice for the ballot was given to the carrier on Tuesday after the collapse of union recognition talks.
The ballot is due to start on November 29 and will ask members if they wish to take industrial action short of a strike over the issue of union recognition. The ballot closes on December 16 and if members vote in favour of action this will begin on December 23 and will continue indefinitely, the PPU warned
It will be refreshed by ballot, until a sole voluntary recognition agreement (VRA) is signed and notice is given to the incumbent union, the British Airline Pilots Association. This is the second ballot the PPU has held this year over the issue of recognition.
The first ballot, held in August, was halted following assurances regarding recognition from the company, which have not been fulfilled, the PPU said.
“Having halted our previous ballot in good faith, it is frustrating to find ourselves once again in the position of balloting members for industrial action,” a spokesman said.
“Despite assurances of progressing sole VRA transfer to the PPU from the highest levels of management, no credible actions have been forthcoming and no genuine commitments have been made.
“Talks this week provided no progress to the position the PPU has now been in for 11 months – and indeed Virgin Atlantic confirmed during the meeting that there would be further requirements to be satisfied in any transition process, but the company would not disclose them to the PPU.
“Decisions are being made in association with the minority union which are simply untenable to the majority of pilots. The reality is that after more than two years of fruitless negotiations, a resolution to the issue of union recognition is as far away as ever. We are in the astonishing position where the majority of the pilot workforce at Virgin Atlantic is being represented by a union (Balpa) with only a very small number of members within the company.”
“We are simply asking the company to respect the wishes of its staff and transfer recognition to the union that democratically represents the majority of its pilots.”
A Virgin Atlantic spokesman said: “We value our pilot workforce enormously and have offered to enter into dialogue with an unrecognised organisation representing some of our pilots.
“In principle we are prepared to recognise the PPU, but they are demanding we also de-recognise Balpa without an agreed framework or transition period.
“We sat down to discuss recognition with them this week, and rather than negotiating they simply gave us notice of ballot for industrial action short of a strike, which we believe to be a ‘work to rule’.
“We’d like to reassure our customers that we will be doing everything possible to ensure that all Virgin Atlantic flights continue to operate as normal.”
A Balpa spokesman said: “The PPU has been offered every opportunity to work with Balpa and Virgin Atlantic but instead is planning to disrupt Christmas holiday travel.
“Pilots in Virgin have good pay and conditions, negotiated by Balpa, and are proud of the job they do and the company they work for.
“The PPU is wrong to put pilot and customer goodwill at risk in this way.”
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