Unite to take BA to court

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The Unite trade union yesterday announced it is to take legal action to stop British Airways imposing its disputed new work contracts on 14,000 cabin crew.

Unite said it will apply for a High Court injunction to bar BA from introducing new pay and conditions for the cabin crew, which are due to be imposed on November 16.

Cabin crew had already decided to hold an emergency meeting on Monday to decide whether to fight plans to cut jobs, freeze pay and introduce worse wages and conditions for new staff. Thousands of workers are expected to attend the meeting, at Sandown Racecourse in Surrey, two weeks before the cuts come into effect.

A Unite spokeswoman said yesterday that the court action is separate to the union’s planned ballot for strike action, which she said will still go ahead on Monday.

BA argues the changes are not contractual so can be brought in without the union’s consent.

Unite disagrees, saying that one example of the planned changes is a cut of one cabin crew on long haul flights. This requires existing crew to absorb their responsibilities and is a contractual change, Unite insists.

Unite said it hopes it can get a court hearing next week. It added that it will review the ballot for industrial action if the court rules in its favour and the changes are prevented from coming into force.

The court move follows the latest talks with BA last Wednesday, aimed at averting a dispute with BA’s check-in workers and other staff who deal with customers.

Officials from the Unite and GMB unions met airline management to discuss 3,700 planned job losses and cost cutting. This is in addition to the 2,500 it has axed since 2008.

Unions and management have been in talks since the announcement of cost-cutting measures earlier this month.

BA expects to report a big loss for this year, which will be its second in a row. It has said that the changes are essential to its survival.