British Airways has announced it's commencing legal action to stop its cabin crew going on strike over the busy Christmas and New Year period. On Monday, BA cabin crew members of Unite union voted in favour of a 12-day strike beginning 22 December and ending 2 January.
BA says it has commenced legal action for injunctive relief "to protect customers from massive stress and disruption." The airline has also written to Unite to highlight "irregularities in the union's strike ballot," which the airline believes renders the ballot invalid.
As a back-up to the legal action, BA are trying to establish which cabin crew are willing to work during the strike period.
Willie Walsh, British Airways chief executive, said:
"We are absolutely determined to do whatever we can to protect our customers from this appalling, unjustified decision from Unite.
"We do not want to see a million Christmases ruined.
"Unite was told about the problems with its ballot on Friday. Yet it cynically went ahead with an extreme, highly publicised threat to our customers and our business in the knowledge that it might not be able to carry it out.
"We remain available for talks with Unite at any time without preconditions."
The statement drew a stinging rebuke from joint general secretaries of Unite Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, who issued a joint written response:
"Christmas travel on British Airways is being held hostage by a macho management which prefers imposition and confrontation, or even litigation, to negotiation.
"Last Friday we offered to suspend any industrial action and declare a 'pause for peace' 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, even though an industrial dispute will cost the company vastly more money than his projected savings from attacking cabin crew conditions.
"It should be clear that BA does not have a problem with Unite, although it may prefer to present it as such.
"It has a problem with its own core employees - highly-skilled and loyal professionals who believe they are being bullied by the company. It is these employees who, by an overwhelming majority, have voted to stand up to this bullying and give the lie to the claim that they are only being asked to accept small changes.
"If British Airways want to get Christmas back on schedule, and values its relations with its own core employees, it will now take up our offer: Suspend the imposition of contractual changes and we will suspend the strike.
"That is the choice - a pause for peace or madhouse macho management."