Virgin Atlantic pilots vote for strike

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Pilots at UK long-haul carrier Virgin Atlantic Airways have voted to strike over a pay dispute. If the action goes ahead it will be the first UK pilots' strike in 32 years.

The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) said that the vast majority of Virgin Atlantic's pilots were members of the union and that 97% of those who voted in a 94% turnout ballot had voted in favour of striking.

No date had yet been set for the pilots to stop work and Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan called on the airline's president, Sir Richard Branson, to get involved to sort out the problem.

McAuslan said that the pilots had no wish to strike, "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.

"When a group of professional people say 'enough', someone at the top should sit up and listen. We do not wish to inconvenience the public and hope that Sir Richard will use some of his undoubted Virgin flair to settle this."

In a statement, Virgin Atlantic said it was "naturally disappointed" with the ballot result but was committed to further talks to find a solution.

"We have made an industry-leading offer to BALPA that is double the national average for a UK business. We value our pilots enormously and that is why we have offered three guaranteed pay rises in the next two-and-a-half years and a share of company profits. We believe that once Balpa communicate this offer to our pilots, industrial action will be averted."

It had contingency plans in place to minimise the effects of any industrial action, it added.