British Airways strike "illegal"

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The British Airways cabin crew strike has been called off, after the High Court found the balloting process was illegal.

The news will come as a relief to hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers who feared their Christmas travel plans would be disrupted as a result of the action. 

Earlier this week, cabin crew voted in favour of a 12-day strike be between 22 December until 2 January. The industrial action came as part of a long-running dispute between unions - including Unite - and the airline over cost cutting.

British Airways says financial pressures facing the industry - including the cost of fuel and taxes, the general recession and a reduction in passenger numbers - means cuts are justified.

However, a successful legal challenge by the airline means the strike has now been lifted by the court. British Airways argued that there were “irregularities” in the union’s strike ballot - including allowing former and outgoing employees the right to vote.

“There was never any need for a strike and we hope that Unite will take this opportunity to reflect before deciding its next steps,” British Airways said in a statement.

However, Unite has said it will hold a new ballot if the ongoing dispute with British Airways is not resolved.

Guy Lamb, employment partner at DLA Piper, says: "For the moment Christmas is safe for all those travelling with British Airways, but Unite reserve the right to appeal the injunction by applying to the Court of Appeal. Without an appeal, the union would be forced to re-ballot its members to hold a strike which is a lengthy process that would carry on well into 2010."

British Airways lost £400 million last year and expects to lose at least as much this year.

“These are the worst financial results in our history. Our revenue is down £1 billion, so reducing costs is absolutely essential even to begin heading back toward profitability and long-term survival,” Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways, said in a statement following the original ballot.

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