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BA resolution on a wing and a prayer

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Signs that a resolution to the long running and much-publicised dispute between British Airways and its cabin staff look promising. Christopher Mordue, partner at law firm Pinsent Masons comments on how this stale mate has been ended, post BA’s merger with Iberia.

There seem to have been two key elements to the resolution of this long running dispute. First, the fact that the leadership of both BA and Unite has changed since the dispute began, seems to have allowed both union and BA to move on from previously entrenched positions. Secondly – and crucially – the peace deal resolves the “satellite disputes” around disciplinary action taken by BA against cabin crew members and the removal of travel perks from striking staff. These issues had previously been the key sticking point in ending the action.

This is a vivid illustration of how industrial disputes can shift their focus and become prolonged and deepened as management responses to the strike take over as the primary element in the conflict. It is not uncommon for these issues to then become the key focus for resolving the dispute.

Although striking staff have substantial protection from dismissal, employers can retaliate in a range of other ways, such as disciplinary action short of dismissal and removing discretionary benefits. It could be argued that BA have had to climb down on those issues to resolve the dispute – on the other hand, those actions opened up a second front in the dispute and gave BA a new set of bargaining points which proved crucial to a resolution.”


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