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Unite And BAA Closer On Pay Issue

Airport news: Strikes at British airports avoided

James Meikle and Helen Pidd  Aug 17, 2010

The British Airports Authority (BAA) and the Unite union came to agree on a better pay offer last night, dodging what could have been a disastrous strike at six UK airports including Heathrow.

The Unite union said it would recommend a "much improved" pay offer to more than 6,000 workers including security staff and firefighters.

The travel plans of millions of passengers over the rest of the holiday season had been put in jeopardy following the rejection of an earlier 1 percent pay offer. An extra rise of 0.5 percent had been conditional on changes being agreed to BAA's sickness agreement.

Brendan Gold, national secretary of Unite, said: "We've reached a settlement which we are prepared to recommend to our members. We will be undertaking a ballot of our members, and that will commence over the next couple of days, and last for probably about three weeks."

Union negotiators hoped members would listen to the recommendation, said Gold. "We are very pleased to be able to reassure the traveling public that we for our side have worked tirelessly to achieve a settlement."

Gold said he was confident union negotiators had reached a recommended settlement that should put an end to any strike threats in the aviation sector of BAA.

Details of the package are expected later today. About half of those previously balloted by Unite on industrial action had voted, with three quarters supporting strikes, which would have also hit Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen airports.

The union had said members deserved a better rise, having last year accepted a pay freeze and co-operated with changes to the firm's pension scheme. Two other unions, Prospect and the Commercial and Public Services Union, will also ballot their members on the offer.

Unite had said the airports would close if strikes went ahead. The union would have to give no more than seven days' notice of any industrial action, meaning its members could walk out before the end of the school holidays.

Terry Morgan of BAA, owned by Spanish construction company Ferrovial, said: "We believe that the unions are going to recommend acceptance of our offer to their membership, and if that's the case, then we are very, very confident that any disruption to our airport operations has now been avoided."

It was important to make sure that people traveling on holiday and business over the next few weeks could do so with a high degree of confidence that their journeys were not going to be disrupted, he said.

"I think it's a deal that is a fair reward for our staff, but it's also a deal that the company can afford."

Transport secretary Philip Hammond said: "I am extremely pleased that BAA and Unite have agreed a basis for settlement to end the threat of strike action. Strike action over a bank holiday would have been hugely damaging to the country.

"Passengers will be relieved that they are now able to go on holiday without the fear of disruption from strikes."

Bob Atkinson, of website, said there would have been passenger "outrage" if the strikes had gone ahead. "Consumers have already had to contend with a range of challenging travel problems in 2010 – from airports closed due to snow at the turn of the year to airspace shut down and the problems of making claims from airlines after the volcanic ash eruption, together with the BA cabin crew strikes.

"Customers now need reassurance that they will not see problems further down the road, and it is time that the split-up of the BAA monopoly at London and in Scotland is resolved once and for all. When will the sale of Stansted and Edinburgh or Glasgow International go through and help to prevent consumers being held hostage to one union in the future?"

Meanwhile, thousands of British Airways check-in workers and other ground staff are voting on whether to accept savings and job losses as part of the airline's plans to cut costs.

Airport news: Strikes at British airports avoided
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