Hundreds of Virgin Atlantic pilots will walk out over Christmas and New Year, the Professional Pilots’ Union (PPU) has confirmed.
A PPU ballot of Virgin Atlantic members closed at midday on Friday (December 7) with 71.5% of the 72% turnout voting in favour of strike action.
The PPU is now planning a series of one to four-day strikes starting December 22.
Its proposed walkouts run December 22-25, December 30 to January 2 and January 4-7, inclusive.
Spokesperson Steve Johnson said the PPU had been “shut out” of Virgin’s negotiations over proposed changes to pilots’ pension schemes and a wider benefits review.
He also blasted the airline for its failure to recognise the PPU, which is understood to represent around 400 of Virgin’s 965 pilots.
Virgin said it did not expect the strike to disrupt its flying programme over Christmas and New Year, adding its priority was to ensure all passengers can complete their journeys as planned.
The union has long been in dispute with Virgin over recognition, and latterly, proposed changes to pilots’ pension schemes.
Virgin doesn’t currently recognise the PPU and instead recognises the British Airline Pilots Association, or Balpa.
However, the PPU claims to represent more Virgin pilots than Balpa, and says it has been excluded from the airline’s benefits review.
The PPU notified the airline on November 12 of its intention to ballot members, with the ballot starting a week later.
It says Virgin has insisted on a “one-union arrangement” for its pilots, sidelining the PPU. The strikes, said the union, “will continue until the dispute is resolved”.
Johnson, a former Virgin Atlantic and Red Arrows pilot, said after pursuing recognition for the past two years, it had been forced to take action.
“It’s the last straw,” he said. “Virgin Atlantic have consistently refused to recognise the PPU as a legitimate and independent union, essentially disenfranchising our members.
“Despite the rhetoric that consultations are inclusive of all staff and unions, in practice this doesn’t happen. We hope that Virgin acknowledge the mandate our members have given us, and help avoid strike action by recognising the PPU and halt the benefits review that is so damaging to our members long-term security."
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “A small number of our pilots have voted for industrial action. Our absolute priority is to ensure that all of our customers can continue their journeys as planned this Christmas, and we’re working hard to protect all of their trips.”
Virgin added the PPU represents around 30% of its pilots, while stressing it didn’t expect any disruption to its flying programme.