Virgin Atlantic pilots vote to hold first ever strike

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Virgin Atlantic pilots have voted overwhelmingly to hold their first strike in the airline's 27-year history amid a long-standing row over pay, their union announced on Tuesday.

A total 97 percent voted to strike following a ballot turnout of 94 percent but no dates for action have been set in the hope of resolving the issue with Virgin's tycoon owner Richard Branson, pilots union Balpa said in a statement.

"For the first time in their history pilots in Virgin Atlantic have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action over pay," the union said.

Virgin is 51-percent owned by the British entrepreneur Branson and 49-percent by Singapore Airlines.

"The size of the poll and the huge majority for action should send a clear message to Sir Richard Branson," said Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan.

"I am happy to meet him anywhere and anytime to resolve this. My messages are simple: 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. But there comes a time when even moderate people say 'enough'," added the head of Balpa.

Virgin's pilots are unhappy at the company's offer of a 4.0-percent pay increase for 2011, followed by hikes of 3.0 percent in each of the following two years.

"With no pay increase since 2008, a below inflation offer for 2011 and proposals for 2012 and 2013 that will be sub-inflation this is now a six-year attack on living standards which has not happened in any other UK airline," McAuslan added.

© 2011 AFP

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