The ongoing row over new employment contracts for thousands of British Airways cabin crew is set to switch to the High Court as the Unite union begins its legal action against the airline but lawyers are suggesting that it is unlikely the court will grant the orders because of the precedent it would set for public policy.
Unite is trying to obtain a court order to stop BA’s proposed alterations to the working arrangements of cabin crews. The union is also threatening to ballot for strike action.
The new contracts will be imposed from November 16the, and Unite is arguing that they will hit pay, terms and conditions for workers at a time when BA is cutting thousands of jobs and freezing pay.
BA is insisting the changes will not alter contractual terms and conditions for individual crew members and will resist the injunction application.
Cabin crew vented their anger at BA at a rally which attracted around 2,500 members of the Unite union who voiced their displeasure at the tightening of the company’s purse strings.
Steve Turner, national offer at the Unite union, said: “People are feeling very angry and frustrated at BA’s action. They find it inexplicable given all the hard work they put in and all the efforts we have made as a union to suggest savings which the company has disregarded up to now.” He said the union was not making any demands, but merely seeking to minimise the “damage” being imposed on its members.
Mr Turner also warned that other groups of workers, including check-in and transfer staff, could also become involved in the dispute.
A BA spokesman said: “We have announced changes to onboard cabin crew numbers to enable us to accept more than 1,000 requests from crew for voluntary redundancy and more than 3,000 requests for part-time working. Our announcement followed more than nine months of negotiation and consultation with Unite. British Airways is facing very difficult economic conditions and is heading for a second consecutive year of financial losses for the first time in our history.
“We have put together a package of changes, which despite the unprecedented financial circumstances facing the company, not only protects current cabin crew but also offers many new benefits. We have made it clear that there will be no change to the individual terms and conditions of our current crew. They will not take a pay cut. In fact some 75% of crew will receive a pay scale increase worth between two and seven per cent this year and again next year. Our current cabin crew remain the best paid in the country by some way.”