BA faces strikes next week after union wins court victory

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British Airways (BA) cabin crew could go on strike next week after their union won an appeal on Thursday against a court injunction which blocked a planned stoppage.

The latest twist in the long-running dispute over pay and conditions comes after the airline succeeded on Monday in obtaining the injunction by arguing that the union's strike ballot was faulty.

A panel of three senior judges ruled two to one in favour of overturning it.

"This is not a moment for being triumphant. We shouldn't have been in this process," the Unite union's joint general secretary Derek Simpson said outside the High Court as he welcomed the judgment.

"The case brought by BA was trivial and, in my opinion, irresponsible."

BA had won the injunction blocking the five-day strike -- the first in a series -- by arguing that the union had failed to report the results of the ballot properly to its members.

Simpson said Thursday's judgment was a "further opportunity... to try to find a negotiated settlement" with the airline.

If an agreement to the increasingly bitter dispute cannot be found, the union is threatening to go ahead with strike action.

Unite had planned strikes on May 18-22 -- the action blocked by the injunction -- with the second from next Monday until Friday, then May 30-June 3 and June 5-9.

BA said it was "very disappointed for our customers" that the appeal had been upheld and that the union intended to go ahead with "unjustified and pointless strikes".

It said it was confident that thousands of cabin crew would ignore the strike and that it would be able to fly more than 70 percent of its passengers during next week's planned walkout.

BA said it believed cabin crew would accept its offer "if it was put to them in a fair and secret ballot".

While BA and the union have reached broad agreement on the issue of pay, the sticking point is now the heavily discounted flights available to off-duty cabin crew -- key perks which have been taken away from workers who have gone on strike.

Despite the ruling in favour of BA on Monday, flights have been disrupted this week because the airline had taken pre-emptive action to accommodate the planned strike and was unable to reinstate all its services.

The airline won a High Court battle in December to stop a 12-day walkout over the busy Christmas and New Year holidays, when a judge granted an injunction.

BA also argued on that occasion that Unite's ballot was invalid.

But the union did stage walkouts in March, which were marked by sharp disagreements between the union and BA over the impact of the industrial action.

© 2010 AFP

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