PILOTS launched a 12-hour strike yesterday at tour operator Thomas Cook after they were offered a derisory below-inflation pay rise.
Members of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) walked out at 3am yesterday morning in the first strike by British pilots since 1974.
The union took the decision to walk out after eight months of negotiations led to an offer of 1.5 per cent — below the rate of inflation so still a reduction in real terms.
Balpa wanted a a pay rise at least in line with infl ation plus better facilities for pilots. The union said it decided to take action “extremely reluctantly” after talks chaired by conciliation service Acas collapsed.
Members voted nine to one in favour of industrial action with an 88 per cent turnout in a ballot held last month.
Thomas Cook tried to block the strike with an injunction but it was refused by High Court judges.
Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said: “Thomas Cook pilots have faced pay cuts and slashed terms and conditions and say enough is enough.
“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.”
A Thomas Cook spokesman said: “Our priority is to make sure all of our customers can still fl y on holiday and back home with us during the strike period and we are pleased to confi rm that our fl ights will operate.”