BAA strike threatens to close six airports

Air passengers face more travel chaos after key airport staff voted to strike over a pay offer derided by the Unite trade union as "nothing short of confrontational".

Walk-outs could close six BAA airports – Heathrow, Stansted, Southampton, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, as early as this month, plunging hundreds of thousands of travellers' holiday plans into confusion only weeks after a wave of strikes at British Airways.

BAA claims its offer of a 1 per cent pay rise, plus another potential 0.5 per cent based on performance, is "reasonable" – citing the recession, the impact of the BA strikes, and the £36m cost of the volcanic ash cloud. But more than 3,000 members of Unite who work as ground staff, security guards and firefighters voted 3-1 in favour of industrial action.

Unite says workers have already accepted one annual pay freeze in deference to the economic situation, and they missed out on a £450 bonus because Spanish-owned BAA missed growth targets. Brian Boyd, the union's national officer, said: "BAA's measly pay offer is nothing short of confrontational"

Conciliation service Acas said it was arranging a meeting between BAA and Unite to be held today.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said: "Unite need to consider very carefully the result of this ballot – with only about 35 per cent of staff that were balloted voting in favour of strike action."

Union officials will meet next week to fix the dates of any walk-outs. Strikers must give at least seven days' notice of intended industrial action, leaving the union the option of targeting the August bank holiday weekend.