18-May-2010 9:27 AM

British Airways wins injunction in cabin crew strike

British Airways won a court ruling stopping cabin crew from launching strike action on 18-May-2010 (Bloomberg/Reuters, 17-May-2010). The court ruled cabin crew union, Unite, may have failed to adequately inform all members of the strike ballot results and "the balance of convenience" was in favour of granting BA an injunction. The court denied Unite’s request for an immediate appeal. Unite argued during the case that all members had been advised of the results and BA was relying on a rule designed to protect staff, not companies. Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) announced (17-May-2010) discussions took place during the afternoon, following the court ruling. However, the parties have adjourned to reflect on their respective positions. [more - Acas]

  • Unite response: Unite Joint General Secretaries, Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, responded (17-May-2010) stating the ruling was an "absolute disgrace". The union announced (17-May-2010) plans to appeal the decision on 18-May-2010 and advised all members must neither threaten nor take any industrial action during this period, and must now work normally. The union also stated negotiations between BA and Unite came to a "premature end" following the ruling. [more - Joint General Secretary Statement] [more - announcement to members]
  • British Airways response: 
    • The carrier stated it will now continue to offer a full flight schedule at London Gatwick and London City airports, as planned (Dow Jones, 17-May-2010). It plans to restore a full flying programme at London Heathrow Airport by the weekend, ash cloud permitting;
    • BA also called on Unite to "take this opportunity to pause and focus on achieving the early and peaceful end to this dispute". CEO Willie Walsh stated he did not expect progress during the talks (telegraph.co.uk, 17-May-2010). He stated the action was not over travel concessions, as Unite claims, but about a "dysfunctional trade union". He also argued there was "absolutely no way" he could intervene in disciplinary action which Unite claims is holding up a prospective deal between the two, as the carrier has "very clear" policies on handling bullying, harassment and intimidation and they should be dealt with in a "fair and proper way";
  • UK Government response: Transport Minister, Phillip Hammond, urged both sides to continue negotiations, stating they should consider the "long-term interests of the UK, the UK travelling public, the employees and the airline, because actually they are all the same".

British Airways: “We are delighted for our customers that Unite's plans for extreme and unjustified strike action cannot go ahead. We are sorry the court judgment cannot undo the disruption already suffered by some customers who were due to travel during the early days of the union's industrial action … We hope all sections of Unite, including the leaders of the cabin crew branch Bassa, will take this opportunity to pause and focus on achieving the early and peaceful end to this dispute which the travelling public and all our employees want,” Company Statement. Source: RTE News, 17-May-2010.

Unite: "This judgment is an absolute disgrace and will rank alongside the Taff Vale judgment as a landmark attack on free trade unionism and the right to take industrial action. Its implication is that it is now all-but impossible to take legally-protected strike action against any employer who wishes to seek an injunction on even the most trivial grounds. Because of the far-reaching consequences of this injunction for all trade unions and indeed for our democracy, we are seeking leave to appeal immediately. It need hardly be said that this brings the prospect of a settlement to the dispute with British Airways not one day closer. However, we will of course comply with the injunction, and will be immediately telling our cabin crew members, who have three times voted against the company's conduct by overwhelming majorities, to work normally and not take or threaten any industrial action," Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, Joint General Secretaries. Source: Unite, 17-May-2010.

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