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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions
Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions