LONDON- Virgin Atlantic (VS) is facing a period of uncertainty as its pilots are gearing up for the possibility of a strike later this year. The pilots are advocating for reversing pandemic-induced changes implemented to rescue the airline from financial troubles.
The British Air Line Pilots Association (Balpa), the union representing these pilots, has expressed significant apprehensions regarding pilot fatigue and overall well-being.
An overwhelming 96 percent of their members have shown support for being officially balloted for potential strike action.
Virgin Atlantic Pilots Strike
Amidst the turbulence caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Virgin Atlantic undertook substantial workforce reductions. Further implemented changes to pilot rosters, which unions have criticized for impacting pilots.
Balpa reported that 81 percent of pilots participated in the strike ballot. Miranda Rackley, Balpa’s interim general secretary, stated that this turnout provides the union with a strong mandate to address the ongoing dispute.
“Virgin Atlantic pilots are clearly deeply invested in this matter. Balpa prefers a constructive approach through negotiation and collaborative solutions and considers industrial action as a last option. We are prepared to initiate negotiations to find a satisfactory resolution, urge Virgin Atlantic to pay heed to its employees, and present an offer that garners our members’ support.”Miranda Rackley, Balpa’s interim general secretary
The regulated upper limit for flight hours stands at 900, while the scheduled average for Virgin Atlantic pilots hovers around 750 hours, as per information obtained by City A.M.
Virgin Atlantic has emphasized the utmost importance of its staff’s health and well-being. Further asserting that its operations surpass industry norms.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson remarked, “We rigorously assess and manage workloads and fatigue levels to ensure our pilots’ well-being remains a top priority at all times.”
The spokesperson added, “We are eager to engage in constructive conversations with our pilots about matters that concern all of us.”
They underlined that the adjustments implemented during the Covid-19 era were “crucial” for the airline’s survival. Subsequently, they are committed to regaining profitability. However, the agreement regarding pilot working conditions is slated to expire in December.
Uncertainty over Strikes and Negotiations
According to a source with insight into the matter, as reported by the Sunday Times, initiating strike action “would not be a productive approach.” While discussions regarding pay are on the horizon.
However, the potential for a strike remains uncertain, and the airline industry is still grappling with the aftermath of last year’s chaos. Due to staffing shortages, anxious travelers had to cope with flight cancellations, disruptions, and baggage issues.
During the previous summer, József Váradi, the CEO of Wizz Air, faced criticism for suggesting that pilots should continue flying even when fatigued. Further, “go the extra mile” to stabilize schedules. He was accused of jeopardizing passenger safety.
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