Bruce Carr QC wins British Airways Christmas Strike injunction

Mrs Justice Cox ruled on 17 December that the British Airways cabin crew strike over the ’12 days of Christmas’ due to commence on 22 December was unlawful. She granted the injunction sought by British Airways to restrain the strike, resulting in a collective sigh of relief among the million travellers who are planning to fly over the holiday period.

Bruce Carr QC submitted on behalf of BA that Unite the Union had balloted members who were taking voluntary redundancy by the time of the strike, contrary to the provisions of section 227 Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. British Airways argued that Unite could not reasonably believe that those ex-employees would be called upon to take part in any industrial action. Unite did not take reasonable steps to exclude many hundred volunteers for redundancy from the ballot by notifying them that they were not eligible to vote. The same error affected the notice of ballot and its notice of industrial action which contained inaccurate numbers of employees taking industrial action.  Bruce Carr submitted that the error was not ‘accidental’ as Unite had known about the error and had not taken reasonable steps to rectify it.

 The injunction application is part of a wider legal dispute between BA and its cabin crew over the reduction in staffing levels on flights out of Heathrow. This will come to a 5 day ‘speedy’ trial in February 2010. Bruce Carr QC and Andrew Burns (instructed by Baker & McKenzie on behalf of British Airways) are representing BA against the claim that cabin crew levels are incorporated into individual contracts of employment and therefore can only be changed with employees’ consent. About 5,000 Union members are claiming a permanent injunction to compel BA to reverse its changes and increase its crewing levels back to levels set out in the collective agreements.

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