Airports strike threat called off after new pay deal

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The Independent Online

The threat of strikes by thousands of airport workers which could have caused travel chaos for holidaymakers was averted tonight.



Lengthy talks between leaders of Unite and bosses from airport operator BAA led to a new pay deal which will be recommended for acceptance.



Unite said a "much improved" offer had been tabled and workers at Heathrow, Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports will be urged to accept the deal.



Unite's national officer Brian Boyd said the union was calling off the threat of strikes while workers vote on the new proposal in the next few weeks.



Details of the new deal will be announced tomorrow after workers have been told the outcome of today's talks.

Mr Boyd, speaking outside the headquarters of conciliation service Acas, where the talks were held, said: "Unite came to these negotiations with a strong mandate for industrial action.



"In today's negotiations between Unite and BAA, the assistance of Acas has been constructive and we are pleased to announce we are calling off strike action at BAA's six airports.



"Unite's negotiating committee will recommend a much-improved offer from BAA.



"Details of the agreement will be made public once BAA staff have been advised of the improved offer."



Mr Boyd said he wanted to thank Acas for its help during today's "tough negotiations".



Peter Harwood, chief conciliator at Acas, said the talks had been "challenging" but was pleased that the basis of a deal had been agreed.



"As you would expect, the details of the deal are confidential until the parties report back to their respective constituencies.



"We understand this process should be completed tomorrow morning after which details will be disclosed."



Mr Harwood said Unite, as well as two other unions involved in the dispute, Prospect and the Public and Commercial Services union, will ballot their members with a recommendation to accept, adding: "Acas is pleased at this development and hope that the matter will soon be settled."

The threatened strike action would have involved more than 6,000 security staff, engineers and firefighters at the six airports.



The talks followed a vote by Unite members in favour of industrial action in protest at a 1% pay offer.



Unite said its members accepted a wage freeze last year and co-operated with changes to their pension scheme, so deserved a bigger pay rise.



The Spanish owners of BAA had offered an additional 0.5% but this was conditional on changes to the firm's sickness agreement, said the union.



Around half of the 6,000 workers balloted by Unite voted, with 74.1% of those who did opting for strike action.

Brendan Gold, national secretary of Unite, told reporters: "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.



"But that recommendation for acceptance we hope our members will listen to, and we are very pleased to be able to reassure the travelling public that we for our side have worked tirelessly to achieve a settlement."



He declined to give details of the deal, saying they would be released to stewards tomorrow.



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

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