British Airways lost a bid to block pilots from taking strike action in a dispute over pay at the UK Court of Appeal yesterday.
At the hearing, Lord Justice Davis, Lord Justice Hamblen and Lady Justice Simler dismissed BA’s appeal against a previous High Court ruling.
The two sides agreed to further talks at the conciliation service Acas following the hearing but BA warned that the summer holidays of thousands of customers were at risk.
The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) announced last week that its members had backed industrial action by more than nine to one, on a turnout of 90%.
BA took legal action in an attempt to halt the strikes, which it claims are designed to cause “the maximum in disruption” and could cost the airline up to £40 million a day.
BA applied to the High Court last week for an interim injunction to prevent strike action by pilots based at Heathrow and Gatwick, arguing that Balpa’s ballots did not comply with trade union law.
The airline claimed the ballot had not been carried out correctly and had failed to provide a list of the categories of employees who had been balloted. It argued that Balpa’s failure to specify whether the pilots were in long-haul or short-haul fleets meant that the ballot could not be relied on.
Balpa submitted that it was not required to provide that level of detail and that this would amount to a disproportionate interference with the right to strike.
Justice Elisabeth Laing dismissed BA’s application for a temporary injunction, ruling that Balpa was “more likely than not” to establish at a full trial that its strike ballots were properly issued.
Balpa must give 14 days notice of strike action.
Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said after the ruling: “The Court of Appeal has today rightly dismissed BA’s attempt to injunct this industrial action on a technicality.
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“BA’s attempt to defeat the democratic view of their pilots in court, rather than deal with us across the negotiating table, has sadly wasted huge amounts of time and money that could have been put into finding a peaceful resolution. Now the window for negotiation and compromise is closing fast.”
He called on BA “to wake up to reality” and added: “Our ballot returned 93% in favour of strike action. There is a serious issue here and BA has so far refused to help us tackle it.
“On BA’s own figures submitted to the court, even a single day of strike action will cost far more than we believe it would take to settle this dispute.
“However, Balpa wants to resolve this matter through negotiation and so we are not announcing strike dates. Instead, we have called on BA to hold further talks at [conciliation service] Acas and they have agreed to meet at Acas today and for the rest of this week for one last try to resolve this dispute by negotiation.
“We have spent four days in talks at Acas already, and BA refused to move their position one iota. But we hope they now recongise the seriousness of the situation and will work positively with us to find a way forward.”
BA said: “We are disappointed that Balpa has chosen to threaten the holidays of thousands of our customers this summer with unprecedented strike action.
“We are very sorry for the disruption Balpa’s strike action will cause our customers.
“While no strike dates have yet been issued by Balpa and they are required to give us 14 days’ notice of any intention to call strike action, we ask our customers to review their contact details by visiting ba.com, or by contacting their travel agent.
“We continue to pursue every avenue to find a solution to avoid industrial action and protect our customers’ travel plans.
“Our proposed pay deal of 11.5% over three years is fair, and by contrast to Balpa, has been accepted by the members of the Unite and GMB trade unions, which represent nearly 90% of all British Airways colleagues.”
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