British Airways has been granted a High Court injunction to stop planned cabin crew strikes.


The airline was in the High Court today just hours before the first of four five-day walkouts were due to take place.


The decision was based on a technicality over whether Unite followed strict rules in communicating to its members with strike result details.


The first of four five-day walkouts had been due to begin at midnight, but will not go ahead following Mr Justice McCombe’s decision.


Members of Unite were due to walk out from May 18-22 inclusive, then from May 24-28, May 30-June 3 and June 5-9, the last strike ending just days before the start of the football World Cup in South Africa.


Despite the High Court decision there will be disruption to BA services as the carrier had already had to start putting a contingency plan in place.


BA chief executive Willie Walsh heard about the High Court ruling as he was in talks with Unite at Acas.


He said the situation would give Unite further time to reflect on the issues, but Unite vowed to fight the ruling and appealed immediately. A hearing has been set for noon on Tuesday.


Unite joint leader Tony Woodley described the vite as an attack on the democratic right of employees to take legal industrial action.


“Its implication is that it is now all but impossible to take legally protected strike action against any employer who wishes to seek an injunction on even the most trivial grounds.


“Because of the far-reaching consequences of this injunction for all trade unions and indeed for our democracy, we are seeking leave to appeal immediately,” he said.


In a statement BA said: “We are delighted for our customers that Unite’s plans for extreme and unjustified strike action cannot go ahead.


“We are sorry the court judgment cannot undo the disruption already suffered by some customers who were due to travel during the early days of the union’s industrial action.


“As Unite knew, we had to announce last Thursday the rearrangement of our Heathrow schedule to give customers as much notice as possible about changes to their travel plans necessitated by the strike call.


“Ash disruption permitting, we will aim to restore a full flying programme at Heathrow by the weekend. We will also offer a full programme at Gatwick and London City, as planned.
 
“We hope all sections of Unite, including the leaders of the cabin crew branch Bassa, will take this opportunity to pause and focus on achieving the early and peaceful end to this dispute which the travelling public and all our employees want.”


In passing his judgement Mr Justice McCombe said: “I am unable to say it is sufficiently clear that the union took the steps required by law at the time they were required.”
 
BA previously took legal action to prevent a threatened 12-day walkout over Christmas, but Unite then held seven days of action in March.