Devereux team win round three in the BA Cabin Crew dispute

Members of Devereux Chambers once more played a major role in the latest chapter in the litigation between British Airways and its cabin crew union. The High Court gave judgment last week after a speedy trial of the contractual dispute in Malone & Ors v British Airways Plc [2010] EWHC 302 (QB) (19 February 2010)

Members of Unite were seeking an injunction to compel British Airways to reverse the cost-cutting reductions to its crewing levels introduced at the end of 2009. They argued that the crewing levels, which had been collectively agreed with the union, were expressly incorporated into their individual contracts of employment. 

Bruce Carr QC and Andrew Burns (instructed by John Evason of Baker & McKenzie) were successful in persuading Sir Christopher Holland that such provisions were not apt for incorporation and that an injunction was inappropriate. British Airways also succeeded in its secondary argument that it had the power in relation to the majority of its cabin crew employees to make reasonable changes to their terms and conditions. The Judge held that the reductions in crewing levels and the modest increase in work were reasonable in the difficult financial circumstances facing the airline and that they were reasonably introduced in the light of the problems in negotiating with a union afflicted by internal divisions.  The Judge gave permission to appeal in relation to some of the issues.

BA said of the decision: “We are extremely pleased with today’s High Court ruling that the modest changes we made to onboard crew numbers on flights from Heathrow were reasonable, did not breach crew contracts and can remain in place.  Unite’s arguments as to why the changes should be reversed have been considered in great detail by the Court – and rejected. Unite brought this case to Court. We believe it should reflect on the Court’s decision rather than impose an unnecessary strike on the travelling public.”

The decision was reported across the  national and international media, see e.g. The Times, The Telegraph, the Independent and the Financial Times.

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