Chaos averted as BA agrees to delay swipe cards

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The Independent Online

British Airways has agreed a deal with the three unions representing its check-in staff at Heathrow and Gatwick after two days of talks, averting further disruptions to its service.

BA has agreed to postpone until 1 September the introduction of an electronic system for clocking on which sparked an impromptu walkout 12 days ago and caused massive disruption to flights. The deal was reached after the unions threatened to hold a ballot on official action if BA installed the "swipe card" procedure without agreement. The 2,500 staff will also receive a 3 per cent pay rise backdated from 1 January.

Rod Eddington, the airline's chief executive, had accused check-in staff of "clocking" each other in and out but the staff were concerned that an electronic system could pave the way for more flexible shifts. Union officials said the swipe cards had never been the sticking point and stressed they were satisfied that information will not be used to change shift patterns.

Sir Bill Morris, general secretary of the TGWU said: "This is a good day for employees, a good day for the company but an even better day for the passengers." Kevin Curran, leader of the GMB general union, said the dispute had fundamentally been about achieving a manageable "work-life balance". Sir Bill refused to comment on the earlier reported splits between the unions and said there was no purpose in looking backwards over the past 12 days of the dispute.

Paul Talbot, assistant general secretary of Amicus, said the unions had achieved everything they wanted.