BA prepares new legal challenge against Unite as strike enters third day

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The Independent Online

On the second day of the first of three planned walkouts, British Airways yesterday wrote to the Unite union telling it to get its legal papers in order, as it intends to bring another legal challenge against them.

Last week the union successfully overturned an emergency injunction won by BA in order to block the strike action. The Court of Appeal found it was likely to win a full court hearing over the legality of February's strike ballot, in which members voted in favour of industrial action.

BA said that it would not seek to overturn that ruling in the Supreme Court, but put Unite on notice for a possible court case.

"We are not appealing the court's decision. The union would have been fully aware that the point of law over the communication of the strike ballot result would come to a full court case in due course," a spokesman said. "We have written to Unite to remind them to retain relevant paperwork. This is standard legal procedure for all pending court cases."

In response, Unite said: "Two of the three most senior judges in the land concluded last week that, if BA pursued its case for full hearing, the court would highly probably back the union. BA must learn. Disputes are solved through negotiation, not litigation.

"Continuing to pursue Unite through the courts only gives further substance to concerns that BA is more interested in crushing the union and its members than settling this dispute amicably."

BA had initially won the injunction on what the Unite called a "technicality": on the grounds that, when sending the results of the ballot, it had not informed members of the number of spoilt ballots, an obligation under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, agreed with Justice Lady Smith that an injunction blocking the strike should be quashed because, in their view, the union had complied with the rules.

The clause says that a union must take all steps that are "reasonably necessary" to inform as quickly as possible all members of four pieces of information after a strike ballot: the number of votes cast, the number of "yes" votes, the number of "no" votes, and the number of spoilt ballots.

On 22 February the union sent out e-mails, text messages, and tweets to members telling them that the ballot had been carried by an overwhelming majority. However, it did not give all four pieces of information required by the act.

The two Appeal Court judges found that, by posting full results on its website, on notice boards, and in a newsletter, the union had complied with its duties. However, sitting with them, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, insisted that the union had failed to comply with section 231.