British Airways (BA) cabin crew will go on strike after the union Unite today secured a vote in favour of industrial action.
Unite revealed that the ballot gained an 80.7% vote in favour of strikes after nearly 11,700 ballots were issued and the union saw a turnout of 78.7%.
The strike dates are yet to be announced, but Unite previously ruled out taking industrial action over the Easter period.
The ballot was sparked following a dispute about pay, jobs and working conditions.
Len McCluskey, Unite’s assistant general secretary, described the ballot results as an “overwhelming vote in the teeth of BA harassment”.
He said: “BA’s cabin crew have made clear that the deep sense of grievance they feel about their treatment by their employer remains.
“Our members are not mindless militants, but men and women committed to their company and their profession, so it is right that they want to be consulted on changes to their jobs.
“The only way forward for this airline is if all parties can negotiate a solution to the issues before us. In recent weeks we have been in serious discussion with BA. We sincerely hope that the continued strength of the vote by crew will give BA pause for thought.”
McCluskey added that negotiations were continuing with BA at the Trades Union Congress, and that was why no strike dates had been announced.
But Guy Lamb, an employment partner at law firm DLA Piper, warned that the successful strike ballot did not limit the union to one strike, but could lead to a string of walkouts by cabin crew.
He said: “Now that Unite has support for strike action against BA, it really opens the gates for potential long-term chaos at our airports.
“The strike authority given by this ballot result is not limited to one action taking place in March. So long as the union gives the minimum seven days’ notice of any strike to BA, the ballot will continue to authorise any industrial action taken at any time, so long as it relates to the same industrial dispute.
Lamb added that despite continuing negotiations between Unite and BA, the union would have to call the first strike within 28 days.
“If the negotiation process runs on and exceeds this timescale, technically Unite could find themselves back at square one and in need of another ballot,” he said.
“In practice, to protect their position, Unite are likely to announce proposals for a strike to keep themselves within the 28-day deadline, even if the action is subsequently called off as a result of negotiation.”
Unite’s first strike ballot in December was blocked by a High Court injunction after BA accused the union of balloting staff who had accepted voluntary redundancy.
Last week, the union lost its battle to seek an injunction against the airline for introducing the changes to pay and staffing levels, which it claims were not properly consulted with the unions.
BA’s changes were designed to cut costs: the airline made a pre-tax loss of £50m in the three months to December 2009.
BA is due to begin retraining former cabin crew members, who were released by BA last year, in a bid to cover striking workers.