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Saturday 19th of December 2009
December 16, 2009    

British Airways to take legal action to prevent Christmas strike

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by Kay Murchie

In a bid to prevent the 12-day strike planned by cabin crew over Christmas, British Airways (BA) is to take legal action to prevent what could cause misery for millions of passengers this festive season.

The Unite union has called a walkout from December 22 to January 2 in a dispute over working conditions, jobs and pay.

On Monday, cabin crew voted for the strike but BA said it had written to the union, claiming there were “irregularities” in the ballot which render it invalid.

In a statement yesterday, BA’s chief executive Willie Walsh said: “The airline called on Unite to call off the industrial action by 2 p.m. The union has not done so and BA is now seeking an injunction to prevent the strike going ahead.”

Mr Walsh added: “We are absolutely determined to do whatever we can to protect our customers from this appalling, unjustified decision from Unite.”

The case will be heard in the High Court in London.

BA wants around 75% of its crew to accept pay rises of between 2% and 7% this year and a pay freeze in 2010, as well as 3,000 staff to switch to part-time working.

In response, Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite, said: “We offered to suspend any industrial action if the company would only agree to suspend its imposition of new terms and conditions on cabin crew. Willie Walsh turned this offer down flat. Confrontation, not negotiation, is his approach.”

BA admitted in the summer that it was fighting for its survival and, as a result, embarked on a massive cost-cutting programme, which included pay freezes and job losses.

However, the airline industry as a whole has been struggling amid the global economic downturn which led to a severe slump in demand. Many airlines have been forced out of business as fewer people are travelling by air.

Earlier this week, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said airlines will suffer losses of $5.6 billion (£3.5 billion) in 2010 - an increase from the $3.8 billion it originally predicted.

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