Strikes to start in days as BA injunction is rejected

British Airways staff who overturned a legal block on a series of five-day strikes are to walk out again within days, delaying tens of thousands of passengers.

With no end in sight to one of the most bitter industrial disputes of recent years, the crew's union, Unite, announced a five-day stoppage on Monday after winning Court of Appeal backing that it had lawfully called walk-outs in May and June.

The High Court had ruled that the union had failed to meet legal requirements on the disclosure of a strike ballot result, in which 81 per cent of staff supported industrial action.

Rejecting that ruling yesterday, two Court of Appeal Judges said that while Unite may have fallen short of all its legal duties it would be wrong to thwart the desire of staff to take strike action on the basis of a "technicality". A third judge, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, agreed with BA.

The ruling means Unite may carry out its threat of holding a series of five-day stoppages. Earlier this month it called four strikes lasting 20 days.

Setting out a new timetable for three five-day strikes, Unite said that the first would begin next Monday with a one day pause before the second walk out on 30 May.

A third strike is planned for 5-9 June, ending two days before the start of football World Cup in South Africa.

A majority of Unite's 10,000 BA cabin crew first voted for a strike in December in protest at BA's imposition of new contracts which would change working practices for cabin crew, including reducing staffing from 15 to 14 on long-haul flights.

The sides are thought to be close to resolving that argument but the dispute has been inflamed by BA's withdrawal of travel perks from crew who took strike action in March and its alleged sacking or suspension of almost 60 union members.

Staff irritation grew when BA secured a High Court injunction on Monday preventing the start of a strike the next day. The Judge Mr Justice McCombe said he was unable to say the union took all the steps required by law, including notification of 11 spoilt ballots among the 9,282 ballots cast.

Allowing Unite's appeal, the country's top judge, Lord Judge, said BA had demonstrated the union could have done more to meet the terms of the 1992 Trade Union Act but "crucially", he added, BA had "failed to persuade me that what was done was insufficient to amount to compliance with the requirements".

Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, stressed that the strike would have to be resolved by negotiation. He said: "Legal processes do not constitute mediation. On the contrary they often serve to inflame rather than mollify the feelings of those involved."

Lady Justice Smith, who also upheld the appeal, echoed the sentiments. Lord Neuberger, while stressing he was not making a comment on the merit of the strike, deemed that the union had not prudently given all crew the right information as soon as possible.

A group of Unite activists cheered loudly outside the court in London when they heard the result, singing: "We are the champions."

Unite's joint leader Derek Simpson hailed a "a sensible decision" against BA's "minor, almost irrelevant" case but warned that it was not a time for triumphalism.

He appealed for the airline, headed by the combative chief executive Willie Walsh, to make a new offer, saying the sides were only a "sliver" away from agreement. "We call on BA to go that extra mile and stop these side issues.

"We will not strike before Monday – we hope we don't have to strike at all," he said.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber welcomed "an important victory", which he said marked a halt to a recent run of legal judgments where employers had persuaded the courts to prevent staff from exercising their right to strike. Corinna Ferguson, of the human rights group Liberty, said big business should not be allowed to "play technical games in court".

BA, which has been undercut by low budget airlines which pay their staff less, said it was "very disappointed" by the ruling. In a statement it said: "We are confident that thousands of cabin crew will ignore Unite's strike call and help us fly more than 70 per cent of the customers who were booked to fly with us in the period targeted," it said. "Unite's strikes have failed twice and they will fail again."

The privatised former flag carrier hopes to run more than half of flights from Heathrow and all of its services at Gatwick and London City airports. If it flies 70 per cent of customers during the five-day periods, it will still have to cancel flights for more than 100,000 passengers. It has made contingency arrangements with 50 rival operators to carry its passengers.

BA says it is determined to prevail in the dispute, despite the financial cost, describing it as a battle for the future of the company. It lost £40-45m from seven days of strikes in March and is expected to lose tens of millions more from the latest wave. Analysts expect it to post losses of £600m when it announces annual results today.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
(David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor