The High Court has ruled against British Airways cabin crew striking over Christmas.
Mrs Justice Cox agreed that Unite, the union’s cabin crew, had not balloted members correctly. BA’s lawyers had complained that Unite had breached industrial relations law by including members of staff that no longer worked for the airline.
BA said in a statement: “We are delighted for our customers that the threat of a Christmas strike has been lifted by the court. It is a decision that will be welcomed by hundreds of thousands of families in the UK and around the world.”
“There was never any need for a strike and we hope that Unite will take this opportunity to reflect before deciding its next steps. We believe the public would want that too.”
“It has also become very clear that our customers do not believe that old-style trade union militancy is relevant to our efforts to move British Airways back toward profitability. Financial success is essential to build the kind of business our customers want and provide long-term opportunities for our staff.”
BA’s QC, Bruce Carr, said that the 12-day strike would deprive “literally millions of people of a happy Christmas”.
He told the High Court in London: “BA has therefore brought this action to protect its passengers against these wilful, disproportionate and clearly unlawful actions.”
Continuing the union’s submissions this morning, its counsel, John Hendy QC, said he would address the court on the law before moving on to the issues of the balance of convenience and discretion.
Despite the court action, BA chief executive, Willie Walsh, has held his first meeting with the joint leaders of the Unite union since talks broke down last week.
Before meeting Mr Walsh at an undisclosed location, Unite leader Tony Woodley, said: “Last Friday we offered a course for peace: suspend the imposition, the strike will be off. I cannot be clearer.”
Gordon Brown said yesterday he was “very worried” by the prospect of a BA strike, and warned that BA and the unions must both consider the damage the airline would suffer if they cannot reach a resolution.
Meanwhile, BA cabin crew have been having second thoughts over the decision of union leaders to call a strike over Christmas, having underestimated the size and hostility of the public backlash.
An internet chat room accessible only to members of the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardessess Association (Bassa), a section of the trade union Unite, showed the discomfort.
One wrote: “I understand the need to act now and show our resolve asap, but I and many others I have spoken to today really believe the Christmas dates are not doing us any favours for the cause. I am seriously thinking January would have been better.
“The public backlash is already enormous and, like it or not, Walsh will play on that [but] many crew will listen to what’s on TV and start thinking the same. This will be my third time on strike and I am always with the union, but I have a horrible feeling they may have got this one wrong. I will strike regardless, of course.”