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BALPA vs British Airways – Court of Appeal verdict on the pilot strike delivered at 10.30am

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The Court of Appeal (Civil Decision) has just finished hearing evidence in the case of British Airways plc vs British Airline Pilots’ Association.

This was an appeal against the decision given by Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing on 23rd July that BALPA’s strike ballot was legal.

The Court will announce its decision at 10.30am on Wednesday.

British Airways vs BALPA appeal

What are the grounds for appeal?

The crux of the appeal was this – whilst BALPA had provided British Airways with a list of how many pilots, by managerial grade, voted for industrial action, they did not provide this information split by long-haul or short-haul fleets and that BA requires this information to mitigate the impact of the strike.

The law states:

The trade union must take such steps as are reasonably necessary to ensure that—

i)  the lists mentioned in subsection (2A) and the figures mentioned in subsection (2B), together with an explanation of how those figures were arrived at

2A)  The lists are—

(a)  a list of the categories of employee to which the employees concerned belong, and

(b)  a list of the workplaces at which the employees concerned work.

(2B)  The figures are—

(a)  the total number of employees concerned,

(b)  the number of the employees concerned in each of the categories in the list mentioned in subsection (2A)(a), and

(c)  the number of the employees concerned who work at each workplace in the list mentioned in subsection (2A)(b).

Was it enough to list employees by rank (Captain, First Officer) as opposed to fleet?  We’ll find out at 10.30am.

The obvious point to make is that splitting by fleet is fairly meaningless.  An A380 pilot cannot fly a Boeing 747, so BA’s strike planning is not greatly helped by a having long-haul / short-haul split.  With over 90% of the combined fleet voting for strike actions, it is also clear that both fleets must have voted overwhelmingly for action.

The basis for the appeal was, frankly, thin.  On the other hand, it would also not have been difficult for BALPA to provide this information via another tick box on the ballot paper.

What happens next?

If BALPA wins, it may immediately announce a date for strike action.  It could have already announced a date, whilst waiting for the result of the appeal, but decided to give British Airways some breathing space.  Will they now announce a date or will they give BA another chance at arbitration?

My gut feeling is that, if I were BALPA, I would be concerned that this process has dragged on for long enough and it is time to raise the threat level.

If British Airways wins then BALPA will need to organise another ballot.  This takes 28 days – a seven day notice period to the employer that a ballot will take place, followed by a 21 day period for the ballot itself.

A strike itself requires another full 14 days notice, so – if BA wins – you won’t see any strike action until mid September.

If BALPA wins, the earliest date would be either two weeks on Wednesday or two weeks on Thursday, depending on how you define ’14 days notice’.

Let’s see what happens at 10.30am.


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