Virgin Atlantic pilots vote to strike

image captionThe union says it wants fresh talks with the airline

Virgin Atlantic pilots have voted to go out on strike for their first time in the airline's history, in a dispute over pay.

The Balpa union said 97% of its members voted in favour of industrial action, from a ballot turnout of 94%, a result it said was "overwhelming".

The ballot was called after year-long pay talks with the company broke down.

Balpa said it was open for fresh talks. Virgin Atlantic said it was committed to finding a solution.

Yet the airline added that it was also putting in place contingency plans to minimise the impact of any strikes.

'Hugely disappointed'

Jim McAuslan, Balpa general secretary, said the "huge" vote in favour of strike action sent a clear message to Virgin Atlantic's majority owner, Sir Richard Branson.

"Pilots do not want to strike and are hugely disappointed by the company's approach. There has been no UK pilot strike for 32 years," he added.

"But there comes a time when even moderate people say 'enough'."

Balpa said that Virgin Atlantic's pilots had not had a pay rise since 2008, and were being offered a below inflation deal for 2011.

"We do not want to inconvenience the public and hope that Sir Richard will use some of his undoubted Virgin flair to settle this," Mr McAuslan said.

Virgin Atlantic said in a statement: "We have made an industry-leading offer to Balpa that is double the national average for a UK business.

"We value our pilots enormously and that is why we have offered three guaranteed pay rises in the next two and a half years and a share of company profits."

Balpa has yet to announce any potential strike dates.

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