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Airline spurns CoA litigation warning

26 May 2010

British Airways has snubbed criticism from top judges, admitting it wants to push ahead with full legal action against the union.

The flag carrier has told Unite’s lawyers to keep all paperwork handy pending a “full court case in due course”, despite a warning from the Court of Appeal that it was an inappropriate use of the legal system.

The union last week won its appeal against an injunction blocking strike action on the grounds that it had failed to take all reasonable steps to inform members of 11 spoilt ballot papers.

Discharging the interim injunction on Monday, Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice and Lady Justice Smith agreed that it was “highly probable” that Unite would be able to prove it had fully complied with section 231 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, requiring it did everything “reasonably necessary” to communicate results.

Lord Judge, warned BA that using the courts to resolve breakdowns in industrial relations was futile, stating: “Legal processes do not constitute mediation. They often serve to inflame rather than mollify the feelings of those involved.”

But the airline has instead opted to side with the findings of the dissenting Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, who concluded the original injunction was appropriate given that in any full trial, there would be ‘no good prospect’ of Unite explaining why it was unable to simply email its members with full details of the results.

The airline has said it does not plan to appeal the decision to overturn the injunction, but has instead given the union notice to prepare for a possible fresh hearing into the highly technical aspect of how it communicates its ballot results.

A statement from BA said: “We are not appealing the court’s decision. The union would have been fully aware that the point of law over the communication of the strike ballot result would come to a full court case in due course. We have written to Unite to remind them to retain all relevant paperwork. This is standard legal procedure for all pending court cases.”

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