Millions of airline passengers could face severe disruption at the UK’s largest airports during the August bank holiday weekend after the Unite trade union announced a strike ballot at BAA.
More than 6,000 workers, including firemen, security guards and engineers, are to vote on whether to strike over a pay dispute. The ballot closes on 12 August, which could lead to a walk-out on the August Bank Holiday weekend, one of the busiest periods in the travel calendar.
The owner of Heathrow, Stansted, Glasgow and Edinburgh airports is embroiled in a pay dispute with Britain’s largest trade union
Unite, which represents nearly two-thirds of BAA’s workforce, is confident of industrial action after a 1 percent pay increase was rejected in a consultative ballot by nine out of 10 members, paving the way for a formal ballot.
BAA is the UK’s largest airport owner and its terminals handle more than 300,000 passengers per day.
It has admitted that it would be unable to operate if the staff do go on strike, and would be forced to shut Heathrow, Stansted, Southampton, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow.
The row centres on what Unite, which is also the union behind the BA cabin crew strike, described as a paltry one per cent offer from BAA following a pay freeze last year.
Brian Boyd, Unite’s aviation officer, described BAA’s offer as “measly” and “nothing short of confrontational”.
A spokesman for BAA said its offer was “reasonable” at a time when aviation was seeing a decline in the number of passengers.
“Last year, staff accepted a pay freeze, their generosity helped the company, BAA has returned the favour with no bonus and a one per cent pay offer when inflation is currently five per cent. Over 6000 BAA staff will now begin receiving ballot papers asking them if they are prepared to take strike action.”
The transport secretary, Philip Hammond, said: “We have recently seen the disruption industrial action can cause at our airports, and another strike now is the last thing passengers need. I strongly urge both sides to find a resolution to this dispute so that passengers can enjoy their summer holidays free from the stress and concern that a major strike would bring.”