Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Friday, 30 October 2009

BA facing union legal challenge

British Airways plane
BA says it needs to make changes

Unite the union is to take legal action to try to stop British Airways' plans to impose new pay and conditions on 14,000 cabin crew.

It will make the High Court challenge "against the imposition of new contracts" which it says are due to be brought in by BA on 16 November.

The action is separate to a ballot for industrial action, a spokeswoman said.

BA argues the changes are not contractual so can be brought in without the unions' consent.

However, the union disagrees.

It says one example of the proposed changes is the plan to cut the number of cabin crew on long haul flights by one. The union says this requires existing crew to absorb their responsibilities so is a contractual change.

Unite hopes a court hearing will take place next week. It says if the court rules in its favour and the changes are prevented from coming into force, it will review the strike ballot which is under way.

Cost-cutting

On Wednesday, BA held talks with unions aimed at averting a dispute with BA's check-in workers and other staff who deal with customers.

Officials from the Unite and GMB unions met airline management to discuss planned job losses and cost cutting.

BA plans to shed 3,700 jobs in addition to the 2,500 it has cut since 2008.

Earlier this week, BA said it was "disappointed" by the Unite union's decision to ballot cabin crew about whether to take strike action.

Unions and management have been in talks since the announcement of cost-cutting measures earlier this month.

A BA spokesman said the announcement of changes followed more than nine months of negotiation with Unite.

"The changes do not alter contractual terms and conditions for individual crew members. British Airways is facing very difficult economic conditions and is heading for a second consecutive year of financial losses for the first time in our history," he said.

"Everyone within the company knows we must reduce our costs to move back toward profitability."

BA expects to report a big loss for this year, which will be its second in a row. It has said that the changes are essential to its survival.

In common with most airlines, it has been hit by falling passenger numbers in the recession as well as the volatility of fuel prices.



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