UK - Industrial action by employees of the British Air Line Pilots' Association (BALPA) will begin next week after conciliation talks over changes to the final salary pension scheme broke down.

The GMB union confirmed a "last ditch attempt" to resolve the dispute of pay and pensions will be held on August 5 2008, however it warned strike action will begin on August 6 if the talks fail.

The GMB revealed in June that of the 33 BALPA employees represented by the union, 85% had voted in favour of industrial action, after BALPA announced its intention to close the final salary scheme to new entrants and to change future benefits, including a rise in retirement age.

The GMB originally announced the first in a series of strike actions would take place in July, however conciliation talks, brokered by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), delayed the proposed action. (See earlier article: Airline union faces strike over staff pension closure)

The trade union has now confirmed BALPA employees will stage their first ever strike "after intensive negotiations have failed to persuade BALPA either to modify sufficiently its position on the pension scheme or to agree a two-year inflation-proofed pay deal".

The GMB claimed the conciliation talks have so far "failed to break the deadlock", but admitted a "last ditch" attempt will take place the day before the proposed strike.

Dave Kent, GMB Organiser, said: "This is a disgraceful case of hypocrisy. The pilots' trade union is now seeking to close its own final salary pension to new entrants and to impose drastic changes to pension benefits for existing staff."

He claimed there is no "economic justification" for the changes, which have yet been implemented, and warned "GMB members employed by BALPA have had enough and they will be taking strike action beginning next week".

BALPA issued a newsletter to its company council and committee in June arguing the changes to the pension scheme are necessary to stop its £4.8m (€6.1m) pension deficit "getting worse".

BALPA revealed it has already agreed an additional funding programme of a £1m initial payment and £400,000 a year for 10 years, but said after "extensive negotiations" it had now closed the scheme to new entrants and planned a package of measures to limit liabilities.

The organisation revealed a new defined contribution (DC) plan would be introduced as a replacement for new members with a 12% employer contribution and additional death in service cover. 

Meanwhile existing members of the DB scheme will see changes to their future benefits including:

Retirement age rising from 60 to 65 The accrual rate moving from 1/50th of final salary to 1/60th Increases in pensionable pay limited from July 1 2008 to RPI +0.5%

BALPA was unavailable to comment on the latest developments at the time of publication.

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