20/12/2018 19:11 GMT

Virgin Atlantic Wins High Court Bid To Halt Christmas Strikes By Pilots

A third of staff were set to walk out.

Evening Standard

Virgin Atlantic has won a High Court injunction to halt a series of planned strikes by pilots over the festive season.

Earlier this month, it was announced that the airline’s pilots intended to go on strike from 22 December to Christmas Day.

The industrial action came after a dispute over union recognition, the Professional Pilots Union (PPU) – which represents around a third of pilots at the airline – said.

According to the union, its members voted by a ratio of more than 7:1 in favour of a walk-out.

At the time, PPU spokesman Steve Johnson said the union had conducted a work-to-rule action for two years to secure recognition by Virgin, but it had been forced to take action after being “shut out” of negotiations.

“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,” he said. “Our door is – and has always been – open to Virgin to take the necessary steps to prevent any disruption for Christmas travellers.”

Adding that “this is such an easy fix for the company”, Johnson said: “By including all unions in negotiations – not just one selected by the company – it can then live up to its claimed inclusiveness and we can get round the table together to negotiate a sustainable outcome for our members.

“The pilot workforce is a professional and committed group that sees striking as anathema, but clearly feel bullied into this action by a company that chooses to ignore them.” 

But in a ruling preventing the union taking such action on Thursday, Justice Choudhury said: “This is a clear case, in my judgment, where the balance of convenience lies in the injunction being granted.”

A Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman said: “We took the decision to go to court reluctantly, but we felt it necessary to ensure that our customers will be able to travel over the festive period as planned.”

She said significant disruption to flights at Gatwick airport, caused by a drone being flown over the airfield, meant the company’s priority had to be getting customers to their destinations over the festive period.

“We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the overwhelming majority of our pilots who have offered to take on extra work this Christmas, to make sure our flights are protected,” she added.

“We continue to encourage anyone due to travel with us this week to check details of their flight and ensure their contact details are added to their booking.”