Page last updated at 18:08 GMT, Thursday, 17 December 2009

British Airways strike blocked by court

Unite reacts to High Court ruling

A strike by British Airways cabin crew planned for Christmas has been declared illegal in a High Court ruling.

The judge agreed with BA that the cabin crew's union, Unite, had not correctly balloted its members on the strike.

The injunction means the 12-day strike, in protest over job losses and a pay freeze, cannot now go ahead.

Unite called it "a disgraceful day for democracy" and vowed to hold a fresh ballot of cabin crew if the dispute with BA was not resolved.

"There is something wrong with the law," said Unite joint general secretary Derek Simpson.

He admitted that while there would be "great euphoria" among the travelling public, the union would immediately put in place plans for a fresh ballot alongside its continuing negotiations with BA.

"We'll see at the end of the day who wins this, we will see at the end of the day proper democracy, proper justice," added Mr Simpson.

If Unite does go ahead with another ballot, industrial relations laws would mean that fresh industrial action could not be announced until well into the new year.

Opportunity to reflect

The judge in the case, Mrs Justice Cox, agreed with BA that Unite's ballot was invalid because it included workers that had already accepted voluntary redundancy.

The court injunction against the Christmas strike is temporary relief, not proper recovery: BA still needs to resolve its dispute with cabin crew over staffing levels and pay
Robert Peston, BBC business editor

She also poured scorn on the timing of the planned strike.

"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," she said.

Mrs Justice Cox also refused the union permission to appeal, but the union could apply directly to the Court of Appeal.

British Airways said the decision would 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," a statement from the company said.

"In recent days, we believe Unite has formed a better understanding of our position and of the ways in which we could move forward.

"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 toward profitability."

Dispute 'not settled'

Mr Simpson and Unite's other joint general secretary, Tony Woodley, said the dispute was "far from settled".

I'm delighted it's been stopped, we have the upmost respect and regard for our customers and I'm glad we have the opportunity to show this over the festive season
BA cabin crew member

"While we have never wanted this dispute, it is a disgraceful day for democracy when a court can overrule such an overwhelming decision by employees taken in a secret ballot," they said.

The original ballot saw 92.5% of those balloted vote in favour of industrial action.

Bob Atkinson of travel website said the one million passengers booked to travel with BA over Christmas and the new year "can now breathe a sigh of relief and carry on with their travel plans".

"BA should now contact customers as soon as possible to confirm flights will be going ahead and normality has returned to the market," he added.

"The threat of strike action has been hugely damaging for the British Airways brand and customer loyalty has been tested."

One BA cabin crew worker contacted the BBC to say she was "delighted" the strike had been stopped.

"I voted for the strike but never dreamt it would be for 12 days over Christmas," she said.

"I'm delighted it's been stopped, we have the upmost respect and regard for our customers and I'm glad we have the opportunity to show this over the festive season."

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