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Strike up

The BA strikes provided valuable lessons for both unions and employers, but, with industrial action expected to rise, future disputes are likely to be riddled with uncertainty unless legislation is changed, warns Snigdha Nag

26 July 2010

Everyone has an opinion on the BA cabin crew strikes. That opinion can be shaped by many things – maybe it depends on which side of the workplace you find yourself or, perhaps, on your politics. The press has made a great deal of mileage writing about the long-running dispute, which has captured the public’s imagination by preying on their fears that their hard-earned holidays will be ruined. But what does it all mean for employment lawyers?

Union rights and the right to strike have been blowing in the direction of the prevailing political wind since the 1970s. Union power then was at its highest, coupled with liberal regulation. Later, the Thatcher years saw that union power greatly reduced, with the right to strike made subject to stringent controls. Union membership has diminished since then and, after New Labour’s 1997 victory, a ‘middle way’ was sought. While changes such as compulsory recognition of unions by employers were finally introduced, the law on strike...

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