British Airways strike called off

THOUSANDS of festive holiday-makers including scores in Suffolk and north Essex will today welcome news that the British Airways strike is off.

THOUSANDS of festive holiday-makers including scores in Suffolk and north Essex will this afternoon welcome news that the British Airways strike is off.

The company won its bid for a High Court injunction today to prevent a series of crippling Christmas strikes by thousands of cabin crew.

Mrs Justice Cox, sitting in London, granted the order to BA, which challenged the union Unite's ballot of its 12,500 cabin crew members.

During the proceedings, which began yesterday afternoon, Bruce Carr QC, for BA, told the judge that the balloting process contained "serious and substantial irregularities".

The strike, due to start next Tuesday, would deprive "literally millions of people of a happy Christmas', he said.

Unite's joint general secretaries, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, said: "While we have never wanted this dispute it is a disgraceful day for democracy when a court can overrule such an overwhelming decision by employees taken in a secret ballot.

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"We will of course be studying the judgment, but the fact remains that this dispute is not settled. Passing the buck to the courts to do management's job for them was never going to be the answer.

"BA must accept that there can be no resolution except through negotiation, failing which there will inevitably be a further ballot for industrial action.

"Given the clear mood of cabin crew about management's imposition of changes on their working lives, this means that the spectre of further disruption to the company's operations cannot be removed. Only a negotiated agreement can do that.'

BA said: "We are delighted for our customers that the threat of a Christmas strike has been lifted by the court. It is a decision that will be welcomed by hundreds of thousands of families in the UK and around the world.

"There was never any need for a strike and we hope that Unite will take this opportunity to reflect before deciding its next steps. We believe the public would want that too.

"In recent days, we believe Unite has formed a better understanding of our position and of the ways in which we could move forward.

"It has also become very clear that our customers do not believe that old-style trade union militancy is relevant to our efforts to move British Airways back toward profitability.

"Financial success is essential to build the kind of business our customers want and provide long-term opportunities for our staff.'

The judge is now setting out her reasons for her decision to grant the injunction.

She announced to the packed court that her judgment would be a "lengthy' one.

Bob Atkinson of said: "We welcome this announcement. Unite should now call off this disproportionately extreme 12 day strike and staff should commit to work as normal so that the one million passengers booked with the airline can breathe a sigh of relief and carry on with their travel plans this Christmas and New Year.

"BA should now contact customers as soon as possible to confirm flights will be going ahead and normality has returned to the market. The threat of strike action has been hugely damaging for the British Airways brand and customer loyalty has been tested.'