LONDON (Reuters) – EasyJet’s <EZJ.L> new chief operating officer, Peter Bellew, will face a vote of confidence from pilots this week, the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) said on Monday.

BALPA, a union representing more than 90% of easyJet’s pilots, said it would carry out a secret ballot closing at midday (1100 GMT) on Friday, after the airline sent notification of a potential 727 pilot redundancies.

The association criticised Bellew for misjudging the COVID-19 pandemic, trying to bypass unions and proposing pilot redundancies at a scale for which there was “no justification.”

“This is an unusual if not unique step for BALPA to take as we prefer to do our business around the negotiating table but pilot morale in easyJet has collapsed and we’ve been inundated with calls for a vote of no confidence in Mr Bellew,” BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said.

Bellew joined easyJet in January, after a failed court bid by former employer Ryanair to delay the move.

BALPA also said that Bellew had gone against the best practice of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) by reorganising reporting lines on safety to report to him rather than Chief Executive Johan Lundgren.

EasyJet rebuffed the criticism.

“We call on BALPA to focus on working constructively with us rather than on personal attacks which are not in the best interests of our employees,” the budget carrier said.

“Peter has a wealth of industry experience, having been COO for Ryanair and CEO for Malaysian ,and sits on the EASA Strategy Advisory Board. Safety remains easyJet’s highest priority.”

(In this story EasyJet corrects name of EASA Strategy Advisory Board in last paragraph)

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Pravin Char)

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