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13_Latest News - February 2010

13_February 19, 2010
Union loses legal battle with British Airways

The union Unite has failed in a High Court action against British Airways to try to overturn changes brought in by the airline last year.

It claimed it was not consulted properly, and said the changes including freezing pay and cutting crew on long-haul flights, were imposed.

The union had been set to strike over the issues over Christmas, but a separate High Court action stopped it.

A new strike ballot is ongoing, and will close on 22 February.


BA, which has already threatened to take away generous travel perks for workers who do strike, said it was "extremely pleased" with the ruling.

"Unite's central demand over the last three months has been that we reverse these changes, despite the severe financial impact this would have on the company at a time when we are facing a second year of record annual losses," the company said.

"Unite brought this case to court. We believe it should reflect on the court's decision rather than impose an unnecessary strike on the travelling public."

Unite assistant general secretary Len McCluskey said that industrial action remained a "possibility".

"This regrettable judgment makes absolutely no difference to the substance of our dispute with BA," he said.

Service impact?

The plans for the changes were first presented to BA staff - and unanimously rejected - at a mass meeting in July.


They were then introduced in November - when BA reduced the number of cabin crew on long haul flights from 15 to 14 and brought in a two-year pay freeze from 2010.

The union said this would hit passenger services, as well as the earnings and career prospects of cabin crew.

The airline has also proposed new contracts for fresh recruits and newly-promoted staff. These include a single on-board management grade, no seniority, promotion on merit, and pay set at the market rate plus 10%.

This would still see new recruits paid significantly less than current staff, however.

The union argues it should have been consulted, because the changes are contractual.

But BA disputed this, saying it was not obliged to consult as "the changes do not alter contractual terms and conditions for individual crew members".

The changes are all part of cost-cutting measures at the loss-making airline.

Earlier this month, British Airways announced it made a pre-tax loss of £50m ($79m) in the three months to December 2009.

This was down from the £122m it lost in the same period in 2008 and smaller than many analysts had expected.

However, BA's pre-tax loss in the nine months to December rose to £342m from £70m in the same period in 2008.

Mr Justice Sir Christopher Holland said he had made his judgement based in the light of the airline's financial position.

"If the crew [numbers] materially and fairly contribute to the preservation of BA and more importantly for present purposes job security and pay, how can I condemn the less-than-extreme changes as unreasonable?"


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