Forthcoming strikes by British Airways (BA) cabin crew have been ruled illegal by the High Court.
The 20 days of strikes had been due to start at midnight tonight, but will now have to be postponed after the airline succeeded in securing a court injunction.
Unite will now appeal the High Court ruling, but if that fails it will have to re-ballot its members if it wants to proceed with the strikes.
The union had announced its members would stage four five-day strikes in a row over jobs, pay and working conditions.
Employment and legal experts previously told Personnel Today they thought the use of injunctions against strike ballots could become more frequent following the first British Airways and Network Rail High Court rulings. To read the full analysis, click here.
Lawyers for the airline told the court Unite had left a document explaining the full result of the strike ballot on notice boards and in crew rooms at airports, but only about half the people entitled to vote would have had the chance to see the report.
BA successfully secured a previous injunction against a 10-day cabin crew strike in December last year, after arguing there were irregularities in Unite’s balloting process.
BA said it was “delighted” that “Unite’s plans for extreme and unjustified strike action cannot go ahead”.
A spokesman for the airline said: “We hope all sections of Unite, including the leaders of the cabin crew branch Bassa, will take this opportunity to pause and focus on achieving the early and peaceful end to this dispute which the travelling public and all our employees want.”
But despite the ruling, the airline’s flights will still be disrupted this week as BA was forced to rearrange its flight schedule to give passengers notice about changes to their travel plans. The airline said it hoped to restore a full programme at Heathrow by the end of the weekend, while flights from Gatwick and London City airport will run as planned.
Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said the judgment was “desperately worrying”.
“A strike that clearly has majority support has been turned over on a tiny technicality,” he said. “This – and other recent decisions – begin to make it look as if there is no effective right to strike in today’s Britain.”
The airline and union were also holding talks today to try to resolve the ongoing dispute, but Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA, told the BBC he did not expect an agreement to be reached today.