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British Airways’ pilots have rebelled over a controversial scheme that siphons off thousands of pounds of their salaries to pay for colleagues left out of work by the Covid crisis.
Nearly two-thirds of pilots opposed a mechanism that forces them to accept pay cuts in a ballot by their union Balpa on Thursday evening, The Telegraph can disclose.
Under a deal struck in July 2020, pilots accepted temporary pay cuts of 20pc, falling to 8pc over the following two years.
However, they have now refused a deal to continue taking lower salaries until 2028.
The cuts were designed to mitigate job losses. As a result, only 270 pilots were made redundant, compared with 1,255 originally expected to be laid off.
They also allowed more experienced pilots to be retained after many were left without an aircraft following the UK flag carrier’s decision to ditch Boeing jumbo jets.
BA said in 2020 that the pay cuts to fund out of work pilots would be phased out over the longer term.
But in an internal email sent in the last month, it set out a schedule for a “long-term pay delta”.
Pilots were asked to accept a 7.5pc cut over the rest of 2022, falling to 4.5pc next year. The schedule runs to 2028, when they will be docked 2.3pc of their pay.
The proposals were agreed by Balpa but rejected by 64.9pc of the union’s members in a consultative ballot.
Balpa told pilots: “Your view is that the delta is no longer acceptable. Despite seeing some advantages of the simplified proposal, the overwhelming response has been that our members object to continuing pay reductions.
“We shall continue to make clear that the delta is damaging to the relationship between BA and its pilots.
“We will now ask that BA recognises the value of its pilots.”
The discounts are understood to have riled pilots because the airline has told investors that it expects to return to profitability in the second quarter of 2022.
Luis Gallego, the chief executive of BA's parent company IAG, said last week that demand was “recovering strongly” and the company expected to return to profitability during the period from April to June onwards and for 2022 as a whole.
A spokesman for British Airways said: “While the result of this consultative ballot is disappointing, we remain committed to continuing talks with the union.”
Martin Chalk, Balpa's chief executive, said: “British Airways pilots accepted pay cuts in 2020 to save jobs which ironically provided BA with a quick supply of pilots able to return to flying at short notice.
“BA wants pilots to continue pay cuts in the longer term, for several years to come, having announced a return to profit and having returned directors to full pay. Our members have made it very clear that this is unacceptable to them.”