UK airports shutdown looming

Workers at six UK airports owned by
BAA have voted three-to-one in favour of strike action in a dispute over pay.

BAA said Heathrow, Stansted,
Glasgow, Southampton, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports would have to close on any
strike days, as vital staff including fire fighters are due to take part.

The airports operator said the 50
per cent turnout meant the union did not have a clear mandate for action.

Strike dates are expected to be
announced next week.

BAA said: “We regret the
uncertainty this vote has already caused our passengers and airline customers.

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.”

The Unite union, which is fighting
a “measly” 1 per cent pay offer, said 74.1 per cent of the 3,054
staff who voted had said yes to strike action. A total of 6,185 staff were
balloted.

In addition to the fire fighters,
the vote was also put to security officers, engineers and workers in various
support roles.

Earlier, the much smaller Prospect
union, which represents about 100 managerial and technical staff, said its
members had also voted in favour of industrial action.

Both sides said they hoped to be
able to avert the action through negotiation.

The union said it would be meeting
on Monday to discuss a plan of action, leaving the weekend open for talks.

It would have to give a minimum of
a week’s notice for strike action, meaning walkouts could begin from the week
starting 23 August.

Some analysts suggest Unite may
target the August Bank Holiday weekend that starts on Saturday, 28 August, but
its leaders refused to confirm that.

Unite’s Brendan Gold said it was
not their intention to ruin people’s summer holidays.

“The advice we would give to
passengers is to put pressure on the company to come to reach a negotiated
settlement,” he said.

No strike action has previously
completely closed BAA’s airports. In the last planned walkout in 2002, action
was called off at the last moment when an improved offer was made by the
company.

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