British Airways Plc v UNITE 2009 EWHC 3541

It is well known that the High Court granted an injunction which prevented UNITE from proceeding with a 12 day planned strike over the Christmas period. The court found that UNITE did not take reasonable steps to establish that the employees who were voting for the strike would still be employed at the time of the planned strike. UNITE, it was held, should have done more to ensure the accuracy of the information it provided to the airline about the numbers to be balloted.

The support for the strike was overwhelming and the number of redundant leavers would not have affected the outcome of the ballot. However, the court held that the union had failed to provide any evidence about the steps taken to ensure that members not entitled to vote did not in fact vote. These were technical failures but the requirements had to be complied with if a call for industrial action was to be lawful.

Key point: Trade unions should ensure that their membership database is up to date at all times and in particular in advance of any prospective strike ballots.