British Airways (BA) cabin crew outside the High Court cheered and danced yesterday morning after a panel of three senior judges overturned a ban on their industrial action.
Five days of strike action will begin on Monday after the Unite union successfully appealed against the injunction granted last Monday on the basis that Unite had not reported the results of its strike ballot correctly to members.
Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, the master of the rolls Lord Neuberger, and Lady Justice Smith yesterday ruled 2-1 in favour of overturning the injunction.
Strikes are now free to go ahead.
Unite cabin crew members outside the court sang ‘we are the champions’ after the verdict was announced.
But Unite joint general secretary Derek Simpson told waiting reporters: ‘This is not a moment for being triumphant. We shouldn’t have been in this process.
‘The case brought by BA was trivial and, in my opinion, irresponsible.’
He said that ‘I’m grateful to the Lord Chief Justice and Lady Justice Smith who found very clearly that the the injunction given against us was wrongly given, but the Master of the Rolls was more rigid.’
He added: ‘The courts have given a further opportunity to open negotiations.
‘In their view, matters should be settled by negotiations and not in the courts.’
He said there were ‘two impediments’ to settling the dispute ‘the vindictive penalty’ on crew who took strike action of ending their travel allowances for life.
‘Secondly, 50 or 60 people have been suspended, many of these over trivial offences, eight dismissed. Seven of our reps have been dismissed.’
He accused BA of ‘an intimidation of our colleagues’.
Simpson said if these issues are not resolved strike action could resume.
He stressed: ‘Cabin crew are not mad cap head bangers, they are decent people. But they voted overwhelmingly, twice, for, what is for them, uncharacteristic industrial action.
‘There has been a breakdown in the relationship between the workforce and management.’
However, he said: ‘We won’t go straight into industrial action. There will be no action this week.
‘We’re calling on BA to go the extra mile and stop what it is doing that detracts from a settlement.
‘We will talk to BA at every opportunity including now and over the weekend.
‘We will not strike before Monday if there is no settlement.’
He added that ‘we would not like to strike at all’ preferring a negotiated settlement.
He pledged: ‘We will do whatever our members agree to.’
He further pledged: ‘We will not sell our members out, we will not do things that are not in the interest of our members.’
Tony Woodley, Unite joint general secretary, said in a statement: ‘We are delighted to have won today. Justice has been secured.
‘Had it not been, the right to strike would now be hanging by a thread.
‘BA must now accept that negotiation not litigation is the only way to secure the settlement we all want.
‘However, further strikes will be unavoidable if the company does not immediately work with us to address the outstanding issues.
‘This is a pause for peace. Willie Walsh must make the most of it.’
British Airways shares were trading down 0.4 per cent at 192 pence just before the court ruling, falling 1.4 per cent following the ruling.
Unite had argued that workers were perfectly aware of the results of the strike ballot and that nobody had complained about being ill-informed.
Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge said: ‘BA cabin members are highly computer literate. They use the Internet on a daily basis. The website is indeed the most effective way of communicating.’