BA staff threaten to strike over pay

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The Independent Online

Talks aimed at averting a strike which would ground most British Airways flights have broken down. Check-in and ground-support staff at Heathrow and Gatwick are urging their union to hold a ballot on industrial action in protest at an "inflation-only" pay offer.

Talks aimed at averting a strike which would ground most British Airways flights have broken down. Check-in and ground-support staff at Heathrow and Gatwick are urging their union to hold a ballot on industrial action in protest at an "inflation-only" pay offer.

If there is no settlement, walk-outs could begin in late August, which could cause severe disruption to flights over the bank holiday, one of the busiest times of the year for BA, and cost the cash-strapped airline millions in compensation.

The Transport and General Workers' Union is expected to hold a strike vote unless there is immediate progress in talks with management. The union has already registered a "failure to agree" under the official negotiating process, and a two-week "cooling-off" period has passed without a breakthrough.

Union negotiators are demanding an increase of at least 3.5 per cent to match the rise awarded by the airport services company Aviance to avert threatened stoppages by more than 4,000 employees at 17 British airports. Walkouts by check-in staff at Heathrow alone last year grounded hundreds of flights and cost the airline £40m in compensation to passengers.

A BA spokeswoman said it had offered a pay increase of 8.5 per cent over three years. Alternatively, staff would get 10.5 per cent if the rise did not count towards pensions. The spokeswoman said BA's financial results showed pension costs had increased by £133m. She said the company needed to save £300m over two years.

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