David Prosser: A new age of industrial confrontation

Outlook Unite is understandably delighted at its success in having the High Court ban on its strike at British Airways overturned. But the trade union movement should not get too carried away by this victory. The fact that employers are increasingly willing to turn to the courts during a dispute of this sort marks a step change in Britain's industrial relations climate.

BA is not alone. Last week the publishing group Johnston Press successfully persuaded a court to rule that a ballot taken by its staff for a strike had been improperly conducted, rendering the action unlawful. Other employers will be emboldened by such successes.

These companies are using legislation enacted more than 20 years ago, which the unions failed to persuade successive Labour governments to repeal despite a 13-year window of opportunity. It is difficult to imagine the unions having more joy with the new government. Indeed, if the reaction of workers to public sector austerity measures in other parts of Europe is anything to go by, our own government may find itself tempted to follow the lead of employers such as BA and Johnston Press.