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Last Updated: Monday, 21 January 2008, 18:37 GMT
BA pilots to vote on strike call
British Airways planes
British Airways plans to fly to the US direct from other European cities
British Airways pilots are to be balloted over taking strike action, in a dispute over the airline's plans to launch a new transatlantic subsidiary.

The British Airline Pilots Association is unhappy that BA plans to staff BA OpenSkies with crews on different terms and conditions to existing staff.

Balpa says about 3,000 of BA's 3,200 pilots are members of the association.

A BA spokesman said staff conditions were not under threat and that it was "disappointed" by Balpa's decision.

BA OpenSkies

A spokesman for Balpa said a ballot for industrial action over the plans for BA OpenSkies - offering luxury flights between Europe and America - would take place "within the next few days".

If the pilots do strike it will be the first time since 1980 BA pilots have taken industrial action.

This is an historic opportunity to strengthen and grow our business, which is very much in the interests of customers and staff
British Airways spokesman

Balpa says the airline is trying to break up its pilot body, and that could eventually drive down pay for its members.

Balpa General Secretary Jim McAuslan said: "There are fears, borne out by BA's intransigence, that BA's real aim is to start an outsourcing programme that will eventually force down BA pilot conditions.

"We believe there should be one pilot body for BA and its subsidiary so that there can be fair promotion opportunities; a cohesion of the pilot force which is so important in a safety critical industry; and a safeguarding of BA's brand."

A BA spokesman said: "We are disappointed that Balpa has confirmed its intention to ballot its members for industrial action over our plans for our new subsidiary airline, OpenSkies.

"This is an historic opportunity to strengthen and grow our business, which is very much in the interests of customers and staff. There is no change to the terms and conditions for BA pilots, which are among the best in the industry."

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