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British Airways seeks to stop planned strikes

British Airways says it will seek an injunction to prevent a wave of planned strikes by its cabin crew.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Facing a second wave of walkouts in its acrimonious dispute with its cabin crews, British Airways said Friday that it will seek a court injunction to stop any strikes.

The company said it believes the Unite union, which represents the cabin crews, did not comply with legal requirements in communications with its members. Legally, the union is required to send all eligible voters the exact breakdown of the strike ballot results, BA said in a statement.

"We do not believe Unite properly complied with this requirement," the statement said. "We wrote to the general secretaries of the union ... asking them to explain to us how they discharged this obligation and, based on Unite's replies, we believe that they failed to comply with the legal requirement."

The company said it would fight the "unjustified strike and the union's cynical attempts to destroy our airline."

The union replied that it would be "vigorously" defend against the move.

"We have already responded to the company, and notified them that we have fully complied with the law," a spokesman said. "The only way to settle this long-running dispute is through negotiation. A solution is not to be found in the courtroom."

The company has warned that the walkouts could cause widespread disruption for hundreds of thousands of customers — and it will add to the mounting costs for the struggling carrier in the wake of the disruption caused by the Icelandic volcano eruption, and a previous strike last month by BA staff.

In March, cabin crews walked off the job for seven days, a strike the airline estimated cost around 45 million pounds ($65 million) in canceled flights and contingency provisions.

Earlier Friday, conciliation service Acas formally invited both sides to attend talks.

"The current dispute has now been running for several months and is not only affecting the parties but also the traveling public at a time when the industry has been hard hit by the volcanic ash fallout," the government-backed mediator said.

Unite said it was willing to meet with BA "under any auspices to try to find a solution."

The latest round of strikes was announced earlier this week. Unite said they were planning 20 days of industrial action in May and June — with the first set to begin Tuesday — as their dispute with management over changes to pay and working conditions continues.

The planned strike dates are May 18-22, May 24-28, May 30-June 3 and June 5-9 — leaving just a day's breather in between each five-day walkout. The dates include a long weekend, a school vacation and could also affect travelers to South Africa for the football (soccer) World Cup, which begins June 11.