Pilots union Balpa pulls out of High Court case over right to strike

Hopes of a landmark decision in the High Court case between British Airways (BA) and pilots union Balpa have been dashed following a withdrawal by the union this afternoon.

A decision on Balpa’s right to strike over BA’s plans to set up a separate company in mainland Europe could have provided employers throughout the UK and Europe with a new way to block industrial action.

But the union has dropped its threat of strike action over the OpenSkies programme, which will draw from a new pool of pilots to fly routes between Europe and North America.

Tickets have now gone on sale for OpenSkies’ launch on 19 June.

Balpa claims the new company will be used to “beat down” pay and conditions of pilots, but BA cited European Union law that prevents industrial action when a business based in the EU opens a business in another member state.

In a statement released today, Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan said: “After three days in court it became apparent that win, lose or draw, we could still face appeal after appeal. Balpa has built financial reserves to take action like this, but we will do so wisely.”

However, employers are not off the hook, as McAuslan added: “We shall now be embarking on an EU-wide campaign to have European law changed so that there is no longer any doubt that Article 43, which essentially deals with businesses in competition, in no way undermines the right of workers to take strike action.”

The last strike by BA pilots was held in 1980.

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