UK pilot union Balpa and British Airways (BA) will clash in court just a few weeks before the OpenSkies subsidiary is meant to launch its first flights.
Talks between the two sides regarding pay and conditions for BA pilots in the new airline and the recruitment of others outside the company broke down in March. Balpa did not call a strike ” despite an 86% ”Yes” vote by members in favour of action - after BA threatened to apply for damages, asserting it had a right under the EC Treaty to start operating from another EU Member State.
A Balpa spokesman told ABTN: ”The hearing is on 19 May and the Court has scheduled a week for it ” it will tell us whether this legislation in Article 43 of the Treaty which BA is saying will stop a strike has any bearing on our dispute.
”We think it does not. If they agree, we have nothing to fear and will proceed to strike. We still have to give seven days notice, so the earliest it could be would be two weeks after 19 May, but there is also a chance of a deferred judgement ” and of course what some people are saying is that would land us bang in the summer holiday.”
A BA spokesman told ABTN: ”This is part of a long process ” we don”t expect a decision [that week]. You”ll have to check with Balpa what it is they”re hoping to achieve, but we believe [a strike] was an infringement of our European rights.”
And the spokesman sounded bullish when asked what effect this could have on OpenSkies” launch, which is meant to be some time next month.
”No date has been set yet, but we”re still on course to launch the airline in June. Whether or not they have a legal right to strike or not ” we”re still pressing ahead with our plans. The aircraft has been painted and we”re moving at pace with it.”
BA has also asked the union for a disclosure of any written documents relating to the potential strike ahead of the court case, and Balpa has done likewise.
”We”ve asked for a similar disclosure,” the union spokesman said. ”I had to spend two days going through all my emails ” it”s lots of work on both sides.”
He said the case will be ”costly” but could not put a figure on exactly how much it would be.