British Airways (BA) will today seek a High Court injunction to stop planned cabin crew strikes and renew talks with Unite union.
The airline will go to court today to state it believes Unite has not complied with laws governing strike ballots, which could give it grounds to challenge the 20-day stoppage due to start tomorrow.
BA stands to lose around £100m if the strikes go ahead.
If successful, this would be the second time the airline has succeeded in securing a High Court injunction to prevent a strike, after it used the court to call a halt to a 12-day strike last December.
BA said: “We make no apology for looking at every option possible to protect our customers and our company from this completely unjustified strike and the union’s cynical attempts to destroy our airline.”
When balloting for strikes, unions should give those who took part a detailed breakdown of the result, as required by section 231 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, the Daily Telegraph has reported.
BA said: “We do not believe Unite properly complied with this requirement. We wrote to the general secretaries of the union yesterday asking them to explain to us how they discharged this obligation and, based on Unite’s replies, we believe they failed to comply with the legal requirement.”
The airline is due to meet union officials today for further talks with the conciliation service Acas.
But according to the BBC, the head of Unite said the airline was being “vindictive”.
Tony Woodley, the joint head of Unite, said the two sides had reached agreement in principle over the original dispute about pay, jobs and working conditions, but disagreement remained over the cutting of travel perks for those who previously went on strike, and ongoing disciplinary action against some staff.
He said: “This is not about restructuring any more – it is about taking out activists at the expense of the travelling public. Settling this dispute now would not cost BA a single penny.”
But BA said: “British Airways has not suspended anyone for going on strike. To date, of 27 individuals investigated after allegations (mainly of bullying and intimidation), 20 have returned to work – five without any action taken against them and 15 after written warnings. “Seven have been dismissed for serious cases of misconduct.”
Woodley added the first phase of the strike could be called off this week if the ash cloud from Iceland meant the UK’s airports remained closed. He said: “You would have to be stupid to want to ground planes that are going nowhere anyway.”