Court Rules Against British Airways Strike

Today’s planned British Airways strike won’t happen, thanks to a British High Court injunction against it.

The court said that Unite, the cabin workers’ union planning the strike, hadn’t informed its members how many ballot papers were spoiled in the last dispute with BA. As such, the union technically violated its trade rules, judges said, making the injunction valid. The Guardian has more:

The High Court has granted an injunction for the second time in six months against a strike planned by British Airways cabin crew, scheduled to begin today. Those who had trips planned will be delighted, but the Unite trade union who represented the workers have called the decision a “landmark attack on free trade unionism and the right to take industrial action” and are to appeal the judgment.

The union argued that a recent series of similar injunctions against strike action ran foul of the Human Rights Act 1998. Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights grants the right to freedom of assembly. However, the right can be restricted in certain limited circumstances, as it was in this case.

Standing in the way of Unite’s argument on human rights was the powerful recent judgment in Metrobus Ltd v Unite the Union (31 July 2009), where the Court of Appeal held that the statutory requirements relating to ballots and strike notification…do not unduly restrict the exercise of the right to strike; that the legislation has been carefully adapted over many years, in order to balance the interests of employers, unions and members of the public; and that its provisions are therefore proportionate

(Unite) are likely to argue in the coming appeal that Metrobus has resulted in a disproportionate restriction on the rights to freedom of assembly by opening the door for employers to prevent strikes as a result of relatively small breaches of trade union rules. British Airways will say that the rules are there for good reason and the strictness of application is proportionate to the enormous cost and disruption that strikes can cause.

Meanwhile, British Airways is no longer facing a strike, and the dispute is relegated to the courtroom. Somebody at BA is breathing a sigh of relief.

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