British flights could be severely disrupted next month after workers at BAA’s seven airports across the UK voted for strike action.Unions are planning two 24-hour strikes starting on January 7 and Januanry 14, and a further 48-hour strike starting on January 17.
Results of the secret strike ballots by employees of Spanish-owned BAA at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen were announced at a news conference in London.
BAA airport firefighters, security, maintenance, administrative and clerical staff belonging to Unite:the union and PCS are covered by the strike vote. A total of 1946 Unite members voted for strike action with 1108 voting against.
Unite national aviation secretary Brendan Gold said: “This is a two to one vote for strike action, which is a powerful mandate and a strong message to BAA to think again and reverse its decision to close the final salary pension scheme to new members.”
Brendan Gold announced that the first 24-hour strike action will be at all seven BAA airports from 6.00 a.m. on January 7. A further 24-hour stoppage is scheduled for January 14, with a 48-hour strike due to take place from 6.00 a.m. on January 17.
Brendan Gold said: “BAA has just posted profits of over five hundred million pounds and the Spanish owners Ferrovial have seen their profits rise by nearly sixty per cent. It is clear that our members’ pension scheme is financially sound, and should be left alone.
“However, after a series of fruitless meetings with the company our members have been left with no option b ut to resort to industrial action to defend their interests. BAA and Ferrovial should understand that the workforce has lost trust in them. Not allowing new employees to join the company’s final salary pension scheme after December 1 was viewed as being the first step in the axing of the whole scheme.
“The timing of this dispute was chosen by BAA when it refused our request to defer its decision on the pension scheme. However, our members are conscious of the importance of family and other travel arrangements made by air passengers at this time of year.
“Our quarrel is with BAA and Ferrovial, not with airline passengers. So we have avoided taking industrial action during the holiday period. But our members are determined that the campaign on which we are now embarking will succeed in protecting the future of the pension scheme.”
BAA has urged Unite to continue discussions aimed at averting industrial action. A spokesman for BAA said:
“We continue to believe that industrial action is unnecessary, as none of our existing employees will be affected by the changes to our pension arrangements.
“However, we do recognise that there are important concerns and these will continue to be addresses through discussions with the unions and staff.
“We would ask for the understanding of the passengers as we work hard to resolve this issue.”