Page last updated at 09:27 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 10:27 UK

Pilots' union staff start strike

Plane landing
Conciliation talks have failed to break the deadlock between the two sides

Workers employed by the trade union for airline pilots have started a 48-hour strike in a row over pensions.

Some 33 GMB union members from the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) at West Drayton, near Heathrow, walked out from 0600 BST.

The GMB members are protesting at a decision by Balpa to make changes to their final salary pension scheme.

Balpa said it was "extremely disappointed" the strike was going ahead after making an improved offer.

'Hypocrisy' claim

Conciliation talks on Tuesday at the TUC failed to find agreement, after GMB members had voted by 85% for strike action.

GMB organiser Dave Kent accused Balpa of a "disgraceful case of hypocrisy".

He said: "As a trade union, Balpa has, quite rightly, fought long and hard to protect the final salary pensions of its pilot members in British Airways and other airlines.

"The pilotsí trade union is now seeking to close its own final salary pension to new entrants and to impose drastic changes to pension benefits for existing staff.

"There is no economic justification for these changes because Balpa is one of the most successful and financially robust trade unions in the UK."

Mr Kent added: "No employer, let alone a trade union, should impose changes to terms and conditions of employment without the agreement of its own staff."

'Popular employer'

Balpa said it was facing a pension deficit of £4.6m and was proposing changes to tackle the problem.

The final salary scheme would be closed to new members.

The employers would also be asking new entrants to join a defined contribution scheme and the pension age would increase from 60 to 65.

Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan said that with just 45 members the pension scheme was currently unsustainable.

He said: "We have fought an action against many employers but the reality is that the vast majority of employers don't actually offer a final salary pension scheme to new entrants.

"It's a pretty good scheme that we're offering and it certainly hasn't put off people applying to join our association, it's still a popular employer."

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