British Airways yesterday initiated legal action in a bid to stop the 12-day strike from December 22, announced by the Unite union.
Refusing negotiations, BA bosses have declared a ‘fight to the death’ after 14,000 Unite cabin crew members voted 92.5 per cent for a strike.
The BA share price fell by three per cent yesterday morning.
BA gave the union until 2pm yesterday to call off the strike.
It claimed Unite had not carried out the strike ballot correctly. BA is now seeking a court injunction to get the ballot declared invalid, which would make the strike illegal.
Unite had stressed: ‘The dispute was triggered by the imposition in November by BA of new working practices, which would see between one and three crew members taken off flights, in the process hitting the customer service standards for which the airline is known.
‘BA’s imposition also dismantles long-standing collective agreements which govern working arrangements and payment structures.
‘With 75 per cent of crew earning £20,000 after many years service, allowances make up a considerable portion of their earnings.’
Unite national officer for aviation Steve Turner said: ‘This is about how you do business.
‘How you do business in the 21st century with a blue-chip company is not by imposition.
‘If you want to find a sensible solution, you need to sit down and conclude a mutually acceptable solution.
‘The impositions that we’ve now ended up with are the starting point the company came to us with in January this year.
‘The company have not moved one inch in these negotiations, everything they have now imposed was formed on the basis of the initial proposals that they put forward in March this year.’
Announcing the strike on Monday, Unite assistant secretary Len McCluskey said the union’s negotiators are ready to enter talks ‘anytime, anywhere, 24 hours a day’.
But chief executive Willie Walsh declared: ‘Unite must understand that there can be no return to the old, inefficient ways if we want to ensure long-term survival in the interests of our customers, shareholders and all our staff.’
Walsh described Unite as ‘bent on self-destruction’, threatening that the strike was ‘putting thousands of jobs at risk’.
Walsh said: ‘We are going to look at all our options – operational, legal and industrial relations options.’
BA said on its website: ‘Customers who are booked to travel between December 22 2009 and January 2nd 2010 and for 48 hours on either side of those dates who would like to take their flight at a different time can change to another BA flight departing in the next twelve months at no charge.
‘If a customer’s flight is actually cancelled because of industrial action, we will offer them the option to refund their ticket, rebook on to a different flight or re-route their journey on another BA flight.’