Socialist Worker

BA strike back on as judges back off

Issue No. 2202

Unite members and Right to Work supporters protesting outside the court (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Unite members and Right to Work supporters protesting outside the court (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Cabin crew working for British Airways will strike from next Monday. The strikes are back on after the Appeal Court overturned a ban on industrial action.

BA bosses had used a technicality in the anti-union laws to stop the strike that was due to start this Monday. BA was granted an injunction after the High Court ruled that the full result and information about 11 spoiled ballot papers were not distributed widely enough.

But Unite appealed against the decision, and the panel ruled two to one in favour of overturning the injunction.

Unite members outside the court sang 'we are the champions' after the verdict was announced. Members of Right to Work were among those outside the court that cheered the result. The importance of the verdict to the wider union movement was expressed when delegates at the PCS civil service workers union conference cheered loudly on hearing it.

Tommy Finnegan, a BA cabin crew told Socialist Worker, 'I'm delighted. If the judges had gone ahead with the initial ruling it would have been basically a blanket ban on strike action.

“I read someone saying that, if that happened, Unite should call out all its members for a general strike against the anti-union laws and I think that would have been a good idea.

'We're dealing with Willie Walsh who is like a dog with a bone. The union has been more reactive than aggressive in this dispute, we've been cautious in calling strikes.

'Part of me thinks this is right but another part thinks, let's come out this afternoon!

'A lot of people would support coming out tomorrow instead of waiting for Monday or later. Walsh has already said that talks are 'pointless' so that says a lot about how he's looking at things.'

Derek Simpson joint Unite union general secretary said outside the court 'This is not a moment for being triumphant. We shouldn't have been in this process.

'Our reaction is that it is a sensible decision that reflects the minor, almost irrelevant, case that BA tried to bring, and we are grateful that it puts sense into what is an industrial dispute and strikes at the heart of the argument that minor technicalities can set aside ballots like this one which was overwhelmingly in support and democratically conducted by our members.'

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

The next strike is due to start on Monday 24 May.

In the judgement the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge ruled that Unite’s failures even under the anti trade union laws were– including 11 spoiled ballot papers – “accidental, small scale failures in the process” and there was no reason why “minor failure of the provision of results should undermine the entire process”.

Lady Justice Smith also ruled that the appeal should be allowed, saying if there were failures in communication “they were not of a serious nature” and adding that the current legislation was not intended to be so strict as to “create a series of traps and hurdles for the union”. Which while welcome -would come as a surprise to most trade unionists.

Lord Neuberger, Master of the Rolls, disagreed with the other two however, saying the appeal should not be allowed because the union had not complied.

While the judges backed off the determination of BA bosses to use every trick in the book to attack the cabin crew has been shown yet again.

There needs to be hard hitting action to bring BA boss Willie Walsh to heal. That means the strike action going ahead and every trade unionists throwing their weight behind building solidarity for the dispute.

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