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BALPA with bite

by Captain Andrew Hammond Legal Services Sub Committee Chairman

We didn’t lose a single case last year: quite a statement to make. As a result of this, we managed to recover £151,000 legal fees from the other side, meaning we came in just under budget. In the last year, BALPA spent more than £700,000 in legal fees defending the rights of individual members, taking on airlines where we’ve seen bad practice, and in some cases bringing about change that affects workers across the UK.

The largest spend is on individual cases at employment tribunals, such as unfair dismissals and discrimination claims, but we also litigate on employment for groups, such as redundancies, and use a lot of industrial relations law for collective bargaining and strike action. It should be noted that while the Thomas Cook strike was the first in 40 years, it was actually the sixth time in the last 18 months where the legal committee had done the preparatory work for such action. We’d had a number of other Company Councils who had got to the point where strike action was on the horizon.

We take on many personal injury cases and, due to the nature of a pilot’s work, this isn’t always in the UK. Getting injured downroute is common, so we’ve had cases ongoing in the USA, Japan and Jamaica. Our contacts with IFALPA and other member associations globally help us obtain compensation for our members wherever they are in the world.

We also take on defamation work – BALPA has been sued in the past and we need to be careful what we say. It can be all too tempting to get drawn into a public slanging match with some companies, but this can be a very costly mistake. We’ve had to ensure our internal practices, when it comes to member and public-facing communications, are watertight.

We have a duty to our members to ensure their money is spent wisely, but BALPA is not afraid of the law. We use it intelligently and to achieve our objectives. While legal fees can seem eye-watering, the benefits we reap from this money for all of our members justify the cost.