The PPU – FAQs

  1. I want to join the PPU today, can I?

  1. We’ve taken the decision to, initially, launch the union only for the pilots of Virgin Atlantic Airways. This strategic decision has been taken to allow us to control the growth of the PPU.

    If you’re not employed by Virgin Atlantic, but would like to join the PPU and then have the PPU seek recognition within your airline, please contact the PPU Board by following the “Contact Us” link on the navigation bar.



  1. Why is the PPU accepting only pilots from Virgin Atlantic Airways at launch?

  1. This was a much debated issue. We want to control the growth of the PPU so that we can totally fulfil the union’s obligations to our members, as required by our Constitution and as stated in our Mission Statement. It’s our intention to ballot our membership to expand membership to pilots from other airlines, just as soon as the PPU Board believes that it’s in a position to do so, consistent with its obligations to its membership.


  1. Can the PPU become a recognised union in an employer airline?

  1. The steps in the process are:-

    1. List the Union with the Certification Office (CO). This has been completed and the PPU is now Listed as a Trade union

    2. Apply to the CO for a “Certificate of Independence”, a pre-requisite before any union can become a recognised union by any employer. The PPU has been issued with a “Certificate of Independence” by the UK’s Certification Office.

    3. We are under no illusion that becoming “the” recognised union in any given airline company will be far from an “automatic process”. There is no compulsion for companies with an existing voluntary recognition agreement with another union to terminate that agreement, in favour of another union, even if the existing union has a only a small minority of the workforce as members.

    4. So, our strategy is to build our membership such that we have the overwhelming majority of an airline’s pilots as members. It will then be the PPU’s policy to seek a voluntary recognition agreement with employers, even if that employer already has an existing recognition agreement with another union. It will be for that employer to determine whether they terminate their existing voluntary recognition agreements with any other (minority) union. Alternatively, an employer may enter an agreement with the PPU as an additional recognised union.

    5. However, companies who do resist the wishes of the majority of its pilot workforce and choose to only recognise a (by then) minority union, will also have to deal with the PPU too. By having the overwhelming majority of pilots in each company as its members (and we do need 75-85% of a company’s pilots as members to make this effective), the PPU is capable of entering into a meaningful industrial dialogue, and if necessary a dispute, with an employer. In the event of industrial action, PPU members will enjoy exactly the same industrial protections as a members of a “recognised” union.

    6. The court has noted that the inability for a minority, recognised, union by a majority union in any given company is a "lacuna" that the CAC and parliament may need to address, and we fully intend to bring this back in to focus. It's inequitable that, once a union has a voluntary recognition agreement, it can't be removed by the members. It can, currently, only be removed a company giving it notice under a recognition agreement or vise versa. This is far from democratic situation, nor in the interest of members of an under-performing union, in any industry.

    It’s time for an urgent legislative change.


  1. How does a company terminate a voluntary recognition agreement with an existing union

  1. Most voluntary recognition agreements between airlines and unions have a termination clause, where either party can give notice to the other, that the voluntary recognition agreement will be terminated after an pre-agreed notice period (often six months).


  1. What industrial and legal protections do PPU members have and can The PPU enter a dispute with an employer if it’s not recognised?

  1. We are advised as follows:-

    A non-recognised union can identify a trade dispute between its members and their employer, notify the company of a ballot, carry out that ballot, give notice of the strike, and subsequently call the strike, and have the benefit of statutory immunity.

    There is no requirement to have a certain percentage of the workforce in trade union membership in order to be able to call a ballot for industrial action.

    The law does not say that only a recognised union can be involved in a trade dispute.

    There must be an existing disputes procedure, as applied between the employer and an existing recognised union.

    The issues that can constitute a trade dispute include the recognition of a trade union.

    So, if a union believes an employer should recognise it and the employer won't do so, there is a trade dispute and any ballot would be in contemplation or furtherance of it.

    As recognition can constitute a trade dispute (and as there is no restriction under the trade dispute descriptions which specify that there must be no other union recognised), then as long as balloting and notice provisions are followed there would seem to be no bar to a lawful call for industrial action.


  1. The PPU has just started, how can it protect itself and its membership from legal challenges?

  1. Our members have very substantial aggregate professional legal, employment and personal protection via our Members’ Group Legal Expenses Policy.

    We have also put in place very substantial financial structures to protect the union itself.



  1. What’s different about the PPU?

  1. We started with a totally blank sheet of paper, without pre-conceptions and asked “what should a 21st Century Professional Pilots’ union look and feel like? As a result:-

    • The PPU is web-based and it will be an “e-union” using technology to benefit our members – who, ideally, will come, in “blocks” of members, from airlines throughout the industry, once the membership is opened up to pilots from all UK airlines. This is, after all, a connected world.
    • We have a very low cost base, in order that members’ subs go to where they are most needed – to members’ reserves, for the benefit and protection of the members
    • The PPU is not be a “cheap” union, but rather a union where members take ownership of the process of building both the membership density and financial strength of the union
    • We are a member-driven organisation, run by the members, for the benefit of the members
    • We have no staff final-salary pension scheme drag
    • We need no offices. Meetings are be held on-line, via video-conference and, where face-to-face meetings are deemed to be needed (not that often), then we rent room space, as required
    • We outsource our day-to-day administration, where members’ calls can be answered and directed, where we can receive mail and where we can have our registered office and where our member administration can be undertaken. This facility should be low cost and highly efficient, too
    • We have a 24/7/356 emergency telephone line where members “in professional trouble” can make “the call” and know that it will be dealt with immediately and effectively
    • Members have world-wide UK & “down route” legal protection as part of the package
    • As our membership grows, we will develop affiliations, globally, for the benefit of our members
    • Staff and office costs are be minimised, whilst maintaining the effectiveness of the organisation, and that the maximum percentage of members’ subs will be passed each year in to the reserves of the organisation, for the benefit of the members
    • Where we do employ staff they will be a small, but highly efficient team, where home-working and outsourcing will be the norm
    • Staff pay will incentivised and linked directly to the growth and financial strength of the organisation and that their interests will be totally aligned with the delivery of members’ interests
    • This policy allows the financial strength of the organisation to grow rapidly and keep growing – to continue to build and protect members’ interests
    • The organisation is run by a small and responsive Board and focussed task-groups, run by volunteer members, working on behalf of the membership, for the membership, in all critical areas of interest
    • Any member of staff or any member acting in a position responsible to or for members can be stood-down if 25% of the membership petition the Board for such action
    • The PPU seeks to gain the overwhelming majority of pilots, as members, within each airline company and then encourage employers to recognise the PPU, the union that represents the overwhelming majority of its pilots. Other options remain open to us – see above
    • The focus of the organisation is and will remain, the members, the members and the members and the restoration of respect for our profession and our professionalism
    • The principles/duties of the organisation are enshrined in the Constitution and be clearly stated in our Mission Statement.


  1. Is the PPU a “breakaway” union?

  1. No, the PPU is most definitely not a “breakaway” union.

    The PPU is a listed, independent professional pilots’ union


  1. Why the need for the PPU?

  1. The PPU has been formed in direct response to the deep and wildly felt dissatisfaction with the performance of the alternatives. Our profession is under attack from many directions and it’s time for us to robustly defend it.

    Who better to do so than the members of the profession themselves?



  1. Does all this mean that the PPU is a militant union?

  1. A critical question for many. The short answer is “no, quite the reverse”. Our membership is moderate, level headed and resolute.

    The PPU is totally committed to pro-active engagement with employers via negotiation, rather than threat, as the way forward for both our members and our industry.

    However, our members enjoy the exactly same industrial protections, regardless of recognition status of the PPU in any given company.

    Experience has shown that so called “compliant” unions create more industrial upheaval because they fail to understand the importance of the industrial balance that must exist between an employer and its employees’ union.

    The result, as recent history has so clearly shown, is that brinkmanship pervades and the industrial climate moves towards dispute, simply because the employer is keen to test the “compliant” union’s resolve or may not fully understand the union’s agenda.

    The consequence, again as recent history has so painfully demonstrated, is that members’ interests are subordinated and undermined.

    Conversely, a union that conducts its business with employers on a firm, and extremely well-prepared, business-like, footing and that is totally prepared to engage, collectively, to protect its members’ interests is, paradoxically, less likely to have to “take it to the wire”, because both union and employer know, from the outset, that the union isn’t bluffing.

    The PPU is founded on the policy of “we mean what we say, and we’ll do what we say” means that employers know exactly where we stand.


  1. Who in the PPU is going to negotiate for the members?

  1. The simple answer is, “the very best negotiators we have who will also be the very best trained negotiators that we have”.

    The PPU has excellent and highly experience professional partners who will be training our negotiating teams and also helping us pressure test any and all negotiating strategies prior to any substantive negotiation.

    We also have very experienced negotiators already within our membership who have a track record of successful negotiation on behalf those they represent.


  1. What’s to stop the PPU becoming like “other unions”?

  1. Our membership and our Constitution.


Many thanks