PILOT’S union BALPA told News Line yesterday it will be campaigning to change European law after withdrawing from its High Court challenge to a ban on strike action at British Airways.
BA pilots had voted to strike over the airline’s plans to launch a new subsidiary, OpenSkies, flying direct from major European cities to America.
BALPA insists that pilots at OpenSkies would be hired on different and inferior terms and conditions.
The union’s lawyers pulled out on Thursday, the fourth day of the High Court case saying a prolonged legal war was unaffordable.
BA had challenged the legality of the proposed strike under Article 43 of the Treaty of Rome, which prohibits industrial action by unions in one country against companies established in another member state.
A BALPA spokesman told News Line: ‘We had to withdraw from the legal case.
‘But we shall be mounting a huge campaign, hopefully involving all worker organisations through Europe, which will make the right to strike an absolute right.’
He confirmed a BA claim that BALPA had ‘accepted in court that its ballot in support of industrial action was time-expired and gave an undertaking not to pursue any future ballot on the same issue’.
But BALPA continues to challenge BA claims that its OpenSkies subsidiary ‘poses no threat to the jobs, pay or conditions of mainline British Airways pilots’.
BA pilots voted to strike because they believe that OpenSkies is a ‘Trojan horse’ to be used by BA to erode their terms and conditions as it focuses its growth plans on the new subsidiary.
Meanwhile, as oil prices hit $135 per barrel yesterday, BA boss Willie Walsh warned: ‘I don’t think the industry can absorb these significant increases. Our fuel bill represents 35%-37% of our cost base. In 2000 it was 9%.
‘For a low-fare airline it represents about 50%. Some of the low-fare carriers can’t make money at $85 (per barrel). For them this is life threatening. Those that are weak are going to go out of business.’
• Silverjet, the sole surviving business-class only airline, had trading in its shares suspended yesterday morning after private equity group Viceroy did not come up with the $5m it had agreed to lend Silverjet on May 2.
UK’s FIRST PRIVATE A&E
The British Medical Association yesterday expressed concern over the announcement by the BMI Clementine Churchill Hospital in Harrow, a private hospital, that it has opened ‘the UK’s first 24-hour self-pay emergency care centre’.
A BMA spokesperson told News Line: ‘We would have concerns about possible fragmentation of care, and patients being taken away from the NHS.’
NHS hospital consultant Anna Athow said: ‘They say that this is for non-critical ailments and injuries.
‘They say it is a “consultant-led service, supported by a lead emergency nurse practitioner to coordinate the specialist team of emergency nurse practitioners, A&E senior nurses and acute care-experienced senior nurses’’.
‘In other words, they are opening a nurse-provided, 24-hour care centre.
‘They say it is supported by consultants at the Clementine Churchill Hospital, where imaging, physiotherapy, pharmacy and a minor procedures unite is also available.
‘This is a bid by a private hospital to open an urgent care centre and attract in patients with minor injuries at a charge of £47 to be seen, and further charges for any investigations at one of their hospitals and then it will offer further treatment such as operations at their hospitals for a further charge.
‘They specifically state they will not treat any patient under the age of three or any patient in a critical medical condition or any patient with a life-threatening injury.
‘No doubt they have been encouraged by the Darzi plan to close proper Accident and Emergency departments in District General Hospitals in London.’