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Cath Everett

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BA strike called off – for now

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Although an eleventh hour court order has put a stop to 20-days of planned strike action by British Airways cabin crew, disruption is still expected to hit up to 100,000 passengers this week.
 

The High Court ruled at 6pm last night that the walkout by 12,000 staff had to be called off due to a technicality. The issue centred on whether the Unite union had followed the rules in contacting its members with details of the strike ballot result.
 
In his ruling Mr Justice McCombe said: “I am unable to say it is sufficiently clear that the union took the steps required by law at the time they were required.” As a result, a “balance of convenience” required the granting of the injunction, he added.
 
The first of four five-day walk-outs had been scheduled to start at midnight last night, but flights out of Heathrow airport are still expected to be affected until the end of the week as BA had already announced a rearranged schedule. Flights out of Gatwick and London City are anticipated to take place as planned.
 
But the joint general secretaries of Unite, Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, branded the High Court’s judgement “an absolute disgrace”, describing it as a “landmark attack on free trade unionism and the right to take industrial action”.
 
“Its implication is that it is now all-but impossible to take legally-protected strike action against any employer who wishes to seek an injunction on even the most trivial grounds. Because of the far-reaching consequences of this injunction for all trade unions and, indeed, for our democracy, we are seeking leave to appeal immediately,” they said.
 
Andy Cook, chief executive of employee relations advisory firm Marshall-James Global Solutions was likewise unconvinced that the situation heralded the end of industrial action between the union and the airline.
 
“This injunction only means a postponement of any action, but it does mean that momentum will inevitably be lost,” he said. “I’m sure we will see Unite announce more action as everyone involved in this strike – BA management, Unite and the cabin crew – are showing no signs of compromise. We are seeing brinkmanship at its most extreme.”
 
He added that it was “utterly amazing” that such a prestigious UK company had ended up in this position. “Any negotiation where either or both sides are backed into a corner is a disaster as it means someone will have to lose face in order to make a breakthrough,” Cook said.
 
Further industrial action is widely expected to take place at the end of this month.
 

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