British Airways cabin crew to appeal High Court ruling rejecting injunction against staff changes

British Airways (BA) cabin crew will appeal a High Court ruling that rejected their call for an injunction and found the airline could legally reduce the number of staff onboard flights, Personnel Today has learned.

If the cabin crew succeed at the Court of Appeal hearing, which will take place in October, the court could impose an injunction on BA forcing it to reinstate the original level of cabin staff on all flights.

John Read, employment law editor at XpertHR, warned a successful appeal by the cabin crew “would be a disaster for BA”.

In November, BA reduced the number of cabin crew onboard each plane below a minimum set out in collective agreements between the airline and the unions.

Cabin crew representatives then took the airline to the High Court in February seeking an injunction against the imposed changes, claiming the collective agreements were incorporated into individual contracts of employment so the changes could only be made with agreement from staff.

But the judge ruled against the cabin crew and found BA could legally make the changes as the relevant terms in the collective agreements were not incorporated into individual employment contracts.

John Hendy QC, who will represent the cabin crew at the Court of Appeal, will argue that thousands of cabin crew are “suffering a material prejudicial impact on their working conditions” which had forced them to work harder and become more stressed, so “there was no reason for the Learned Judge to be unwilling to grant an injunction”.

He will add: “In the absence of an injunction (or any equivalent undertaking to the court from BA), these breaches will simply continue ad infinitum, with the appellants accruing fresh causes of action on a continuous basis, in respect of loss which is (directly) non-pecuniary in nature.”

Read said the BA cabin crew “clearly have a chance of succeeding on appeal” and the case would enable them to add pressure to their dispute with the airline.

“Whether or not a collectively-agreed term is incorporated into employees’ contracts is not straightforward, and the cabin crew clearly have a chance of succeeding on appeal – it’s very unlikely the appeal would go ahead if they didn’t,” he said.

“However, the appeal is another means of the cabin crew putting pressure on BA to resolve the ongoing dispute. If the appeal succeeds and the Court of Appeal grants an injunction – which has to be a possibility given that the cabin crews’ loss is non-pecuniary, being harder work and increased stress – it would be a disaster for BA, which has been operating the reduced crew complements for some time now. BA will be desperate to avoid that happening.”

BA refused to comment on the case.