96% Virgin Atlantic pilots vote in favour of industrial action as strikes loom

posted on 9th August 2023 by William Hallowell
96% Virgin Atlantic pilots vote in favour of industrial action as strikes loom
Image credit: Aric Chen/Unsplash

96% of Virgin Atlantic (VA) pilots have voted in favour of taking industrial action after “serious concerns” have been raised about fatigue and wellbeing.

In an internal ballot by the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), the company’s pilots union, almost all members voted in favour of a walk-out.

81% of BALPA members took part in the vote, which the union said gives it “an overwhelming mandate to pursue this dispute”.

It said that changes made to pilots’ scheduling and rostering arrangements made during the pandemic have taken its toll on members.

A BALPA spokesperson said: “It’s clear Virgin Atlantic pilots feel very strongly about this. BALPA prefers to address matters constructively through negotiation and industrial compromise and will only countenance industrial action as a last resort.

“We remain ready to commence negotiations to find an acceptable way forward and urge Virgin Atlantic to listen to its staff and put forward an acceptable offer that our members could support.”

The vote comes as it was reported last week that British Airways workers will receive a pay increase of more than 13% over 18 months from September, thwarting the threat of expected disruption.

Workers will get an additional £1,000 one-off payment, however pilots and management are excluded from the deal – the Unite union said the new deal reversed the pay cuts made in 2020.

Sarah, the wife of a VA pilot told LBC’s Nick Ferrari this week that the stress they face is “horrendous” and that this is impacting the family lives of many of his colleagues.

“He’s worked for Virgin Atlantic for 10 years, and the stress that they’ve been under, particularly over the last two and a half years, has just been horrendous”, she said, adding: “He doesn’t sleep at night”.

“He has so many colleagues where relationships have broken down and [caused] stress on the family because they are really, you know, they’re quite miserable.”

Sarah hit out at the company saying that colleagues felt “unsupported” by management and called for it to look after its own staff.

In response to the result, a VA spokesperson said: “Virgin Atlantic underwent a radical transformation as a result of the impact of Covid-19, which was possible due to the collective effort of our amazing people.

“This was fundamental to our survival and our steadfast commitment to returning to sustainable profitability. We’re grateful to them all, including our pilots who play a pivotal role in the success of our operation.

“We currently have an existing pay and lifestyle agreement in place until the end of 2023, that was agreed, developed and supported by BALPA’s pilot representatives within Virgin Atlantic, and our pilot community.

“We continue to honour all agreements and have offered to enter formal pay and lifestyle negotiations with BALPA’s pilot union representatives in the coming weeks, well in advance of the agreement expiring in December.”