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British Airways talks to pilots after strike vote

British Airways pilots have voted to strike in a dispute over employment terms at a new subsidiary, but immediately agreed to enter arbitration with the airline to find a peaceful solution.

The British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA) said 86% of its 3,000 pilots at British Airways voted for industrial action. “Such action would be the first for nearly 30 years and would effectively ground BA worldwide,” it added. But within hours of announcing the ballot result it agreed to a process of conciliation with BA, overseen by an independent third party. “We welcome the progress made today and are confident that a settlement can be achieved through conciliation, which will protect our customers from the possibility of disruption,” said BA CEO Willie Walsh.

The group’s shares traded lower after the ballot result was announced, but then recovered and were up 0.8% at 284.25 pence at 1335 GMT. The union says its members are unhappy that pilots at BA’s OpenSkies unit will have different conditions to existing staff. BA formed the subsidiary to fly new routes between mainland Europe and the United States from June, taking advantage of a new transatlantic liberalization pact. “BA pilots fear that BA management will use the lower paid OpenSkies pilots as a trojan horse to force down their own pay and conditions,” the union said. The strike threat was not the first for BA, which a year ago narrowly averted a costly 48-hour strike by cabin crew by agreeing new working conditions. (Reuters)