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Branson warns pilots Virgin strike would leave 'scar'

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Branson warns pilots Virgin strike would leave 'scar'

Unread post by bimjim » Mon Jun 27, 2011

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/artic ... ilots.html

Branson warns pilots Virgin strike would leave 'scar'
By Travelmail Reporter
27th June 2011

Sir Richard Branson has warned his airline’s pilots that their proposed strike would leave an 'an indelible scar' on Virgin Atlantic.

The airline boss wrote a letter to pilots threatening to strike in which he said he was 'extremely sad' about the threat of strike action and urged the pilots' union Balpa to arrange talks with Virgin management.
Sir Richard Branson is pictured at a Virgin Atlantic press conference in New York

Personal plea: Sir Richard Branson has urged the pilots' union Balpa to arrange talks with Virgin management

Balpa has said that it will announce strike dates from tomorrow unless a dispute over pay is resolved. Union members have voted overwhelmingly for strike action in protest at a 4 per cent pay rise following a number of pay freezes.

The union's general secretary Jim McAuslan last week urged Sir Richard to become personally involved.

In his letter today, Sir Richard said he would be prepared to have a private meeting with pilots to answer questions about the future.

Sir Richard said: 'I have looked at the details of your offer and believe it is fair. From the company's point of view possibly a little too fair.

'It is one of the best in the industry, along with many other commitments that offer real value to you.'

He went on: 'Unless Balpa withdraws its threat very soon, it will leave an indelible scar on the company, impact customers' trust in us and damage the unique and friendly culture at Virgin Atlantic.

'It will affect jobs and it will make it very difficult for the company to afford the current offer on the table.'

Sir Richard added: 'I was obviously extremely sad to see threats of strike action in the press as these negative comments will have already damaged the reputation of our airline and the trust our customers place in us - which we rely on so heavily. They have also played into the hands of our larger rivals.'

He continued: 'Your union asked me to get involved and I've looked at all the facts and believe that our management have made the best offer it can.

Branson said he wouldn't meet with union representatives but would be happy to meet pilots directly saying: 'I would be happy to have a private meeting with as many pilots that are available, to answer your questions about the future of the airline.'

Tens of thousands of families face having their holidays ruined if Virgin Atlantic pilots stage a walkout.

Strikes by Virgin's 750 pilots will hit key long-haul routes, including flights to Disney theme parks in California and Florida as well as destinations in the Caribbean, the Far East and Australia.

If the strike goes ahead it is likely that a first walk-out would take place in July - with more to follow over the summer.

Virgin said it was disappointed but was preparing 'contingency plans' to deal with any walk-out.

Virgin is based at Heathrow, but also flies from Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow. It handles 6 million passengers a year – around 15,200 a day.

It is the first time that its pilots have voted to strike. The union said Virgin Atlantic pilot pay ranges from £58,000 to £70,000 for a First Officer and £110,000 for a Captain.

A study of average salaries by the Civil Aviation Authority put the top earners at British Airways (£107,600), followed by Virgin Atlantic (£89,500), Monarch (£80,100),Thomson Airways (£78,300), Thomas Cook Airlines (£75,200), Easyjet (£74,100), Jet2.com (£69,900) and bmi (£58,300).

Balpa chief Jim McAuslan said: 'There has been no UK pilot strike for 32 years. But there comes a time when even moderate people say enough.

'With no pay increase since 2008, a below inflation offer for 2011 and proposals for 2012 and 2013 that will be sub-inflation this is now a six-year attack on living standards which has not happened in any other UK airline.'

He added: 'We do not want to inconvenience the public and hope that Sir Richard will use some of his undoubted flair to settle this.'

A spokesman for the airline said its pay offer was 'industry leading' and 'double the national average for a UK business'.

He added: 'We are naturally disappointed with the result of the ballot but remain committed to further talks with our pilots’ representatives to find a solution.'

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