BMI is facing a strike by pilots employed by its low-cost airline over a pay and pensions dispute.
The union representing pilots working for the airline's no-frills bmibaby division revealed yesterday that it had begun balloting its members over the industrial action, with results of the vote expected on August 16th.
The British Air Line Pilots' Association (Balpa) warned that the dispute could spread to BMI's main and regional airlines if the pay row remains unresolved after a further seven days.
The union's members are disgruntled at the "imposition" of a 2.4 per cent pay increase by BMI. They are also unhappy about demands that staff increase their pension contributions and at tax changes regarding the treatment of expenses, which they claim have resulted in a cut in pilots' take home pay.
About 70 per cent of BMI's 700 pilots are members of Balpa, which is recommending that staff vote in favour of industrial action.
Commenting Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan said: "The heart of these disputes is the total lack of respect shown by the company towards its key people, the highly trained, highly professional airline pilots.
"The imposition of the pay increase, the imposition of the higher contribution to the pension scheme, all without any meaningful consultation, is a disgrace in this day and age. If you treat your key people like this they will rebel and BMI pilots have had enough," he added.
Any industrial action could cause disruption to BMI's passengers over the busy August bank holiday period, with aircraft at a number of airports, including Heathrow, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Southampton, likely to be hit if pilots agree to strike.
A spokesman for BMI, Britain's second biggest airline, said: "Bmibaby remain hopeful that its pilots will reject the ballot and accept the award that all other employees have received."