British Airways PLC said it is beginning legal action Tuesday to prevent a planned 12-day strike by cabine crew that could snarl travel plans over Christmas and New Year's for thousands of holiday passengers.
BA said it is seeking a court injunction to stop the walkout on the grounds that the ballot of around 13,000 workers by the Unite union contained "irregularities" that made it invalid.
The airline, which faces having to deal with thousands of disgruntled holiday passengers, said that it had warned Unite about the ballot issue and had given it a 2 p.m. (14:00 GMT) deadline to call off the action.
"The union has not done so and British Airways is now seeking an injunction to prevent the strike going ahead," BA said in a statement shortly after the deadline passed.
The planned strikes, due to run from Dec. 22 to Jan. 2, follow a dispute with cabin crew over job losses and changes to work practices.
BA has said the series of sweeping changes are necessary to cut costs after the airline was hit by a downturn in passenger demand thanks to the global economic crisis.
BA said Tuesday it had sent three letters to Unite since last Friday "highlighting irregularities" in the ballot, but had received no reply from the union.
Unite announced on Monday that cabin crew had voted nine to one in favor of the strike action, in a ballot that recorded 80 percent turnout.
"We are absolutely determined to do whatever we can to protect our customers from this appalling, unjustified decision from Unite," said BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh. "We do not want to see a million Christmases ruined."
Walsh added that the carrier remained open to resuming talks with the union "without any preconditions."
The struggling carrier has announced sweeping changes as part of its bid to cut costs, including axing 1,700 jobs, freezing pay for current staff and offering lower wages for new employees.
The airline, which is struggling as the global downturn eats away at demand for air travel, has defended the cost-savings measures as necessary to move back to profitability. It posted a net loss of 208 million pounds ($346 million) for the six months ending in September, its first-ever loss in the period, as revenue fell by 13.7 percent.
BA also revealed on Monday that its pension deficit has blown out further to 3.7 billion pounds, from 2.1 billion pounds in 2006, and said it would consult with employees about a recovery plan.
The union has argued that the changes, introduced in mid-November, has stopped members from doing their jobs properly and were imposed in breach of contract.
Cabin crews agreed last month to fly with reduced staffing after failing to win a court injunction banning the changes last month until a High Court decision on the dispute is due on Feb. 1.
If the cabin crew do go on strike it will be the first since three days of action in 1997.
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