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Charlie Duff

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Editor, HRzone.co.uk

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BA strike ruled illegal

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The planned strike by Unite which would have seen cabin crew striking over the Christmas period is now off after a high court judged it illegal.

Unite invited workers who had already agreed to take voluntary redundancy to vote in the ballot. BA raised the issue and although they continued with negotiations, the court found in their favour and agreed that to go ahead with the strike would be illegal.

Guy Lamb, employment partner at DLA Piper UK LLP said: "The rules around strike action are incredibly complex  and technical, and it is not unknown for unions to  be caught out."

He explained: "It seems  that Unite balloted workers who were going through a voluntary redundancy process and have since left BA.  From a legal point of view, BA can argue that this makes the ballot invalid, as the Union was aware of the redundancy discussions and the likelihood these workers would no longer be employed by BA at the time of the strike action."
 
The news means there is likely to be less disruption than expected to customers travelling over the Christmas period. However, it does not rule out a future strike.
 
Employment Partner at Pinsent Masons, Lisa Patmore said, "In reality, this may only delay the inevitable as it’s likely a strike will take place anyway at a later date once the union has held another ballot which complies with legal requirements. Clearly though, the action will not take place over Christmas and may therefore lose its impetus."

She added: "There are also reports that some BA crew may decide to stay away from work on Tuesday, regardless of whether strike action goes ahead or not." Patmore warned: "While this could be indicative of the level of feeling among BA employees, these staff should be aware that they may be open to dismissal if they do so."

The BA tactic was a risky move, although the High Court win has proved a powerful weapon for BA. Stephanie Dale, Industrial Relations expert at Stevens & Bolton LLP said: “Faced with crippling industrial action, one cannot blame British Airways for choosing litigation alongside negotiation. An injunction is a deadly weapon to derail action, particularly when planned over a critical period such as Christmas."

It seems that the strike may take place but Christmas travellers should find their plans unaffected at this time. However, if the situation is not resolved between BA and Unite it seems likely a strike will occur in the near future.

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Charlie Duff

Editor, HRzone.co.uk

Read more from Charlie Duff
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