‘It is a disgraceful day for democracy’, Unite joint general secretaries Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley declared after a High Court judge ruled the British Airways strike ballot was invalid.
The ruling meant the 12-day strike by BA cabin crew due to commence next Tuesday 22nd December, that followed a massive 92.5 per cent vote for action in an 80 per cent turnout of 12,500 cabin crew members, would be illegal.
Mrs Justice Scott took one and a half hours to produce a ruling in favour of BA’s argument of ‘serious and substantial irregularities’ despite accepting that the vote of 800 staff who had accepted voluntary redundancy would not have affected the outcome of the overwhelming majority vote.
She accepted the argument that the 800 should not have been balloted as they would not have been called on to strike and therefore the ballot was not carried out correctly in line with the trade union legislation.
The court agreed with BA that the cabin crew’s union, Unite, had not correctly balloted its members on the strike action.
Unite has vowed to hold a fresh ballot of cabin crew if the dispute with BA is not resolved through negotiation.
Unite leaders Simpson and Woodley responded to the judgement saying the dispute over the imposition of 1,700 job cuts, cuts in crewing, a pay freeze and a 50 per cent pay cut for new staff, was ‘far from settled’.
They said in a joint statement: ‘While we have never wanted this dispute, it is a disgraceful day for democracy when a court can overrule such an overwhelming decision by employees taken in a secret ballot.
‘The fact remains that this dispute is not settled.
‘Passing the buck to the courts to do management’s job for them was never going to be the answer.
‘BA must accept that there can be no resolution except through negotiation, failing which there will inevitably be a further ballot for industrial action.’
However, commentators noted that the earliest a new strike could take place after a second ballot will be in early February, and cabin crew en masse may decide to just go sick.
Not surprisingly, British Airways said it is ‘delighted’ with the judge’s decision.
A company statement added: ‘In recent days, we believe Unite has formed a better understanding of our position and of the ways in which we could move forward.
‘It has also become very clear that our customers do not believe that old-style trade union militancy is relevant to our efforts to move British Airways back toward profitability.
‘Financial success is essential to build the kind of business our customers want and provide long-term opportunities for our staff.’
While stating that it had taken legal action to protect customers from the ‘massive stress and disruption’ the stoppage would cause, it emerged that BA has told passengers who feared strike action and re-booked with other airlines that they will not get their BA fare refunded.