Talks to try to avert a strike at BAA’s six UK airports, including Heathrow, will start on Monday. The negotiations will be brokered by the conciliation service Acas and will take place at an undisclosed location.
The announcement by Acas comes after members of the Unite union voted on Thursday to strike in a dispute over pay with BAA.
Essential staff such as firefighters are due to take part, so any strikes would result in the full closure of Heathrow, Stansted, Southampton, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports.
Unite has said it will not decide any dates for walkouts until Monday.
The union, which represents over 6,000 BAA employees, confirmed some 74 per cent of staff had endorsed industrial action following a secret ballot.
“We can confirm that Acas will be facilitating an early meeting of the parties once diaries can be cleared,” said Acas chief conciliator Peter Harwood.
BAA has said it regrets “the uncertainty this vote has already caused our passengers and airline customers”.
The airport operator says its offer of up to 1.5 percent is a fair proposal after a year in which it has seen a sharp decline in passengers due to the recession and Icelandic volcanic ash cloud.
A BAA spokesperson said: “We look forward to meeting the trade unions at ACAS on Monday and are ready to meet over the weekend or any time that the unions are available. We hope that we can quickly conclude an agreement, in the interests of the travelling public, our airlines and our staff, the majority of whom did not vote for a strike.”
Unite has to give a minimum of a week’s notice to hold a strike, so if it does decide on Monday to go ahead with industrial action, the first walkouts could begin in the week starting 23 August.
Union’s leaders have refused to confirm whether the strikes will target the August Bank Holiday weekend starting on 28 August.