British Airways launch legal bid to stop strikes

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British Airways launched a legal bid Monday to stop a planned five-day strike by cabin crew due to start on Tuesday.

The airline is urging the High Court in London to grant an injunction blocking the strike, the first of four five-day stoppages scheduled this month and in June.

Lawyers for BA are seeking to block the action on a technicality, arguing that the Unite union has failed to comply with the requirement to "send everyone eligible to vote details of the exact breakdown of the ballot result".

The airline, which is expected to announce heavy losses this week, successfully won an injunction against strikes planned in December last year.

The union is strongly defending the validity of its latest ballot.

Talks between the airline and Unite at conciliation service Acas were expected later Monday, but BA chief executive Willie Walsh said he did not expect to reach an agreement in time to prevent the first strike going ahead.

"I don't expect any progress today," Walsh told the BBC.

The airline has urged its staff to volunteer to work during the strikes.

"We have strong contingency plans in place. Our intention is to keep British Airways flying," Walsh added.

Unite, Britain's biggest union, is locked in an increasingly bitter standoff with BA over jobs, pay and staffing.

Its members are due to walk out from May 18-22 inclusive, then from May 24-28, May 30-June 3 and June 5-9, the last strike ending just days before the start of the football World Cup in South Africa.

Meanwhile, with BA also hit by the sporadic flight restrictions imposed over volcanic ash from Iceland, Walsh criticised blanket bans on flying, saying they were "a gross over-reaction to a very minor risk".

© 2010 AFP

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