As a salary dispute over pandemic-era pay cutbacks intensifies, British Airways pilots are threatening to wreak travel chaos without actually going on strike by “working to rule” and doing no more than what is legally needed.
At the height of the pandemic, BA’s pilots consented to salary reductions with a portion directed to a cash “pot” to pay pilots who were surplus to requirements and would have otherwise faced unemployment.
The emergency solution, negotiated by the BALPA pilots union, assisted British Airways in surviving the pandemic with a very low number of forced pilot layoffs. Following the removal of travel restrictions earlier this year, the airline was able to rapidly increase the number of pilots on staff.
Pilots are reportedly unhappy that the airline has no plans to restore the pay cutbacks despite the fact that everyone in the pilot workforce is now back at work, despite BA’s parent corporation bragging that it expects to swing to a healthy profit by the end of this year.
The airline is reportedly still depending on pilots working voluntarily extra hours to keep its planes in the air, even though all available pilots are back at work and BA’s schedules have been condensed due to personnel shortages in other departments.
Pilots would refuse voluntary overtime during a “work to rule” protest and strictly adhere to other contractual terms that could typically be disregarded or adjusted to prevent the operation from coming to a halt.
There is reportedly a general feeling of annoyance with the ongoing wage reductions from the pandemic era considering the fact that British Airways has negotiated pay increases with the cabin crew and the majority of ground staff. Sean Doyle, the chief executive, has come under fire from within the company for his refusal to recognize or address the anger of the pilots.
British Airways is working closely with the BALPA pilots union to “jointly find a way forward,” according to a representative. The carrier has already promised pilots a 5% payment this year.
An original salary drop of 20% has already been reduced to 8%, but BA doesn’t expect to reverse the cuts or deal with the pilots’ cost of living crisis until at least 2023.
An unprecedented two-day pilot strike in 2019 cost the airline more than €137 million and led to at least 2,325 flight cancellations. The airline’s pilots went on strike for the first time in more than 40 years.
“It’s clear from our actions we remain committed to working with the unions that represent our people, and that we do want colleagues to benefit as our business recovers from the pandemic,” the airline said in an emailed statement.
“We were able to offer our pilots a 5% payment earlier this year, and we’re hearing their concerns and working closely with their union, BALPA to jointly find a way forward,” the statement continued.
Regarding the state of the negotiations’ development, BALPA made no comments.