British Airways (BA) has lost a legal challenge to a strike vote by pilots, bringing closer the threat of summer holiday travel chaos for its customers.
The airline had sought a temporary injunction at the High Court to halt the prospect of walkouts following the breakdown of talks in a row over pay.
The Balpa union had been expected to announce a series of strike dates, affecting services from Heathrow and Gatwick, in the wake of the ruling though it agreed to hold off until BA had concluded any appeal or conceded defeat.
The company later confirmed it would appeal – with a hearing expected on Friday or Monday also threatening the prospect of renewed talks this week at the conciliation service ACAS.
Should BA lose the case, there could be no strikes for at least two weeks following a judgment because of rules governing formal notice periods for strikes.
Balpa announced on Monday that its members had voted overwhelmingly in favour of strikes but tempered the result by outlining hopes of new talks to resolve the dispute.
It said it had rejected an offer of an 11.5% pay increase over three years – one that has been recommended by unions representing thousands of other BA staff.
The pilots also want a profit share and share save scheme.
The airline argued in court that there were flaws in the way Balpa had organised the ballot – including over the indication of when strikes were likely to start.
BA’s barrister told the hearing that such action was likely to cost the airline between £30m and £40m daily and was designed “to cause the maximum in financial loss and disruption for BA, and the maximum in disruption and hardship for BA’s passengers”.
But Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing ruled the union would be “more likely than not” to establish the ballots were properly
issued at any full trial.
Following the hearing, BA responded: “We are very disappointed with today’s decision.
“We will continue to pursue every avenue to protect the holidays of thousands of our customers this summer.
“Our proposed pay offer of 11.5% over three years is fair, and by contrast to Balpa, the Unite and GMB trade unions, which represent nearly 90% of all British Airways colleagues, have already recommended the same pay offer to their
“We remain open to working with Balpa to reach agreement, which we have been doing since December, and we urge Balpa to return to talks as soon as possible.
“Further information and updates are available at ba.com”.
Its general secretary, Brian Strutton, said: “While we’re pleased with the judge’s decision, we’re frustrated that time has been wasted.
“BA could have spent this time coming back to the negotiating table instead of trying – and failing – to tie us up in legal knots.
“This delay will now continue with BA seeking to appeal against the High Court’s decision.
“As a result it’s now likely the talks scheduled with Acas on Friday will have to be postponed.
“We ask that BA thinks hard about why 93% of our members feel so strongly about taking strike action.
“The company itself has admitted that even one day of strike action would cost more than what our pilots are asking for, so the ball really is in their court here, to look after their pilots and ensure the hardworking public get to continue their holidays as planned.”
Source: Sky News