The Professional Pilots Union (PPU) will approach the High Court to challenge an 11th hour injunction granted to Virgin Atlantic halting the union’s proposed Christmas and New Year strike action.
The PPU announced plans for three four-day walkouts over December 22-25, December 30 to January 2 and January 4-7 (inclusive), with an option for additional action through to March, after members voted in favour of industrial action early in December.
However, Virgin was granted an injunction on December 20 preventing the strikes. The PPU though has since instructed Towns Needham Solicitors to challenge the ruling, which is said would have “far-reaching effects” for the airline industry.
The union has long been in dispute with Virgin over recognition, and latterly, what it describes as its “exclusion” from the airline’s benefits review. Virgin doesn’t currently recognise the PPU and instead chooses only to recognise the British Airline Pilots’ Association, or Balpa.
Alex Barley, solicitor and director at Towns Needham, said: "We are confident the ruling can be successfully challenged, and as an indication of that, we are conducting the appeal on a no win, no fee basis.
"As it stands, the precedent set by the court’s decision will have far-reaching effects on any similar actions by airline unions in the future, and Towns Needham are happy to support the PPU in this case."
Talks between the PPU and Virgin have been held at Acas with a view to reaching an agreement on recognition and mandating PPU involvement in discussions over pilots’ terms and conditions.
PPU spokesman Steve Johnson said despite lodging an appeal, he was hopeful the union and Virgin could come to an agreement outside of court.
“It is our hope these talks achieve our ambition within a reasonable timeframe, and that the outcome of the appeal will prove to be academic,” he said.
“Litigation is very expensive – Virgin fielded an 11-strong team of lawyers to secure their injunction - but a resolution to what we see as a reasonable demand to be recognised can be obtained for free simply by talking to us.”
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “We’re aware of the PPU’s intention to apply for permission to appeal the decision made by the High Court in December.
“We believe that the decision was correct and that permission to appeal should be refused. Our flying programme continues to operate as normal.”
The PPU’s ballot of its Virgin Atlantic members closed at midday on Friday (December 7) with 71.5% of the 72% turnout voting in favour of strike action.
It claims to represent around 400 of Virgin’s 965 pilots (41%), although Virgin says the number is around 30%.