Thomas Cook pilots have launched a 12-hour strike in a dispute over pay – forcing the leisure airline to reschedule some flights.
The industrial action by members of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) got under way at 3am after their demands for a pay rise were not met by the leisure airline.
Thomas Cook said it had offered pilots a 4% pay rise over two years, in addition to automatic annual increases.
The union is seeking much more than that, and wants a one-year deal to be in excess of the Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation rate, which came in at 3.6% in July, and to include various other components of pilot remuneration.
It is the first strike by UK pilots since 1974, the union said, adding three further strikes would take place on 23 and 29 September, plus one on 3 October, if the dispute is not resolved.
BALPA said its members voted heavily in favour of Friday’s walkout “extremely reluctantly” in protest at year-on-year, real-terms pay cuts, and cuts to terms and conditions.
“They welcome the news that many flights are expected to operate as usual during the 12-hour strike. But they say they want the company to understand just how resolute pilots are and how frustrated they are with the company’s uncompromising stance,” BALPA said.
General secretary Brian Strutton added: “Going on strike is not something pilots take lightly. Balpa members haven’t been on strike since 1974, but with no sensible pay offer on the table, Thomas Cook pilots have had no other option.
“The time has come for Thomas Cook to understand the depth of feeling on this issue, listen to its pilots and come forward with a reasonable offer that they can accept.”
The union added it remains committed to finding a solution to the dispute.
Thomas Cook said it was “disappointed” BALPA had announced further strikes, with a spokesman saying: “We have set out a fair pay increase of 1.75% in year one and 2.25% increase in year two, on top of automatic pay increases, in what is a very competitive environment.
“Balpa have not moved from their demands for a pay rise which adds up to more than 10%, or around £10,000 per pilot.
“We hope Balpa come back to the table willing to negotiate.
“We are grateful to our customers for their understanding and to our pilots who are flying today, as well as staff who are working hard to keep the impact of this strike to a minimum.
“All of our flights so far today have operated without disruption.”