Tuesday 16 January 2018

UK airports face threat of strikes as workers back walkout

David Millward

Millions of holidaymakers face the threat of more summer travel disruption after key workers at six major UK airports, including Heathrow, voted to go on strike.

The decision by 3,000 members of Unite, who took part in the ballot, is set to cripple travel during the height of the holiday season.

If it goes ahead, this would be the second aviation dispute involving Unite, the union at the heart of the BA cabin crew dispute.

Brian Boyd, Unite's national officer for civil aviation, said: "strike action is the last resort to stop our members' living standards falling for the second year in a row."

Unless a deal can be reached BAA, Britain's largest airport operator, is facing the faces a walkout by firemen, engineers and security workers at Heathrow, Stansted, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Southampton.

Earlier David Cameron had warned that a stoppage would achieve nothing "apart from damage".

Speaking at Downing Street, the Prime Minister said: "These sorts of strikes never achieve anything apart from damage – damage to business, damage to jobs, damage to the interests of tourists who want to come to visit Britain, or people who want to leave Britain and have a holiday overseas," he told reporters at No 10.

"I very much hope that they don't go ahead. They will do nothing but harm. We want to demonstrate that Britain is open for business."

While British Airways was able to keep much of its operation going when thousands of its cabin crew walked out, BAA would have to close its operation down because of the safety implications of any industrial action.

Such a move would hit the travel plans of nearly 300,000 people a day. Gatwick, which BAA sold, is not involved in the current dispute.

The dispute centres on a pay dispute with Spanish-owned BAA offering Unite a 1 per cent pay increase, with a further half per cent dependent on changes to the sickness agreement.

Unite dismissed the offer as "measly" , given that its members had accepted a pay freeze last year.

BAA has been hit hard by the recession, having lost £822 million last year and £126 million in the first three months of 2010. Since then the BA strike and volcanic ash has cost the airport operator a further £40 million.

However Unite believes the recovery in the aviation industry in recent months means that BAA could afford a more generous offer.

In addition managerial and tecnhical support staff, who are members of the Prospect union, have also backed industrial action ion protest at BAA's decision not to pay £450 which had been promised as part of the pay deal in 2009.

The union represents just over 100 people at BAA's six airports.

A BAA voiced its disappointment at the vote. "We regret the uncertainty this vote has already caused our passengers and airline customers. We hope that the union will engage with us quickly to conclude an agreement. Fewer than half of those people eligible to vote have done so and we do not believe this result provides a clear mandate for strike action."

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