Union anger as BA strike is blocked

Judge issues injunction after hearing of 'serious irregularities' in ballot

The great Christmas getaway was back on for a million air passengers yesterday after a judge ruled that a planned 12-day strike by British Airways cabin crew was illegal.

Union leaders reacted with fury to the ruling, which they described as a "disgraceful day for democracy", but BA executives were exultant at winning a postponement, at least, of industrial action until after the lucrative Christmas and New Year period.

Cabin crews who had been expected to walk out on Tuesday will now be expected to work as normal after Mrs Justice Cox granted an emergency injunction after hearing of "serious and substantial" irregularities in the way the ballot was carried out.

However, union leaders have not yet ruled out the option of going to the Court of Appeal in an effort to overturn yesterday's ruling. "We are studying the judgment in detail and will have to take legal advice. No decision has been made," said a spokesman.

For Unite, the union representing the cabin crews, the decision was a severe blow to its hopes of taking on the airline during a time of maximum financial pain to the company.

It has promised to organise another ballot for strike action but it will be weeks before the poll can be organised and the votes counted.

Derek Simpson, who with Tony Woodley jointly leads the union, said he could understand the "euphoria" of passengers who would have faced travel misery if the strike had gone ahead, but he remained furious at what he described as BA's "macho management" tactics in imposing new working conditions on staff.

"There is something wrong with a law that allows an employer to impose change but prevents a union from fighting back," he said after the hearing at the High Court in London. "We will certainly re-ballot. Our members will be incensed by this.

"The only good thing to come from this is that people will get away for Christmas. It was never our intention to disrupt passengers."

He said the union had been trying to get the company to the negotiating table but feared the airline would use the court ruling as an excuse to refuse to take part in further talks.

At BA the mood was one of jubilation after learning that the strike had been ruled illegal. A company statement said: "It is a decision that will be welcomed by hundreds of thousands of families in the UK and around the world. There was never any need for a strike and we hope that Unite will take this opportunity to reflect before deciding its next steps. We believe the public would want that too. It has also become very clear that our customers do not believe that old-style trade union militancy is relevant to our efforts to move British Airways back towards profitability."

The two sides remain at odds over changes to the way cabin crew work and are recompensed but a narrow hope of a peaceful end to the dispute emerged last night when Ed Sweeney, the chairman of the industrial conciliation service Acas offered to negotiate a deal.

During the court hearing, BA had argued that the ballot, in which 92 per cent of union members voted for industrial action, should be overturned on the grounds of electoral irregularities. In particular, the airline complained that staff taking voluntary redundancy who would have ceased to be employed by the time of any strike had been allowed to vote.

Mrs Justice Cox did not accept Unite's argument that it did what was "reasonably practicable" to comply with its obligations to exclude from the ballot those members who were taking redundancy, but was thwarted by BA's "intransigence".

She said there was no indication that the union had instructed members not to vote if they were leaving, and said: "That would have been a practicable and reasonable step for the union to take but it was not taken, despite the opportunity to do so."

She added: "A strike of this kind over the 12 days of Christmas is fundamentally more damaging to BA and the wider public than a strike taking place at almost any other time of the year."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee