British Airways employees could go on strike as early as next week after a British court on Thursday lifted a ban that would have prohibited a walk-out.
As if the volcano spewing ash high into the air over Europe wasn't enough to cause airport headaches, travelers booked on British Airways flights may soon find they, too, are grounded. The court ruling means cabin crews will likely go ahead with a series of five-day walk-outs expected to start Monday, unless the union representing the workers reaches a deal with BA before then.
BA sought to stop the strike after a court ruled that the Unite union had not correctly reported results of its strike ballot to members. But a panel of judges ruled 2-1 in favor of overturning the injunction, BBC News reported online. "We shouldn't have been in this process," said Unite spokesman Derek Simpson.
The airline said it was "very disappointed" by the ruling and would implement contingency plans to keep as full a flight schedule as possible. "We are confident that thousands of cabin crew will ignore Unite's strike call and help us fly more than 70 percent of the customers who were booked to fly with us in the period targeted," BA said.
The airline committed to running a full schedule from Gatwick and London City airports, and said it plans to operate more than 60% of its long-haul flights and more than 50% of shorter flights from its hub at Heathrow.
"Unite's strikes have failed twice and they will fail again," BA said in a statement. "We have put forward a very fair offer that addresses the concerns Unite has raised over the last 15 months. We believe cabin crew would accept it if it was put to them in a fair and secret ballot."
Unite represents 95% of BA's 15,000 cabin-crew members. The union and the airline are locked in a lengthy, bitter dispute over pay and working conditions. The union objects to recently imposed cuts in staffing levels and says the vast majority of its members receive only modest compensation.
Should union members go strike, it wouldn't be the first time this year. Workers went on strike twice in March, but when the airline and the union failed to resolve their differences, Unite announced a series of four more strikes in May and June. The first strike was due to begin May 18, but BA sought and won the injunction to prevent it.
The next strike is set for Monday and will last through Friday, while the third and fourth strikes are planned for May 30 to June 3, and June 5 to 9, respectively.
Unite's Simpson said he hoped the union and BA could resume negotiations to avoid the next round of strikes, CNN reported. "We are and will talk to them at every opportunity in an attempt to do what we've been trying to do throughout," he said, "and that's get a negotiated settlement."
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