BA cabin crew lose appeal over cuts

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The Independent Online

British Airways cabin crew lost their court appeal over the airline's cost-cutting proposals today.

They took their case to the Court of Appeal after a High Court judge refused to grant them an injunction to prevent BA imposing the cuts.

The claimants alleged that, in October 2009, BA unilaterally reduced crew complements on its aircraft below the levels which had been agreed through collective bargaining.

They sought declarations as to their contractual terms, injunctions requiring BA to comply with the crew complement levels in operation before the unilateral reduction, damages and costs.

BA said that, even though some collective agreements negotiated between it and the union, Unite, were incorporated into the employees' contracts of employment, the provisions relating to crew complements were not.

The airline said the collective agreements had never intended that crew complement provisions should be enforceable by individual employees.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal ruled that the relevant part of the Worldwide Scheduling Agreement was intended as an undertaking by the employer towards its cabin crew employees collectively and was intended partly to protect jobs and partly to protect the crews against excessive demands in terms of work and effort.

The judges ruled that it was intended to be binding only in honour, although it created a danger that, if breached, industrial action would follow.

John Hendry QC, representing the cabin crews based at Heathrow, told the appeal judges last month that Sir Christopher Holland, the High Court judge, had found that the level of crew numbers had a material impact on the working conditions of cabin crews and the reduction in numbers had led to "harder work and increased stress".

The crewing levels had been agreed between BA and the Unite union as the minimum required under a productivity deal, he said.

Mr Hendry said an injunction should have been granted by the High Court and a future hearing set to decide on damages for the cabin crew.

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