Talks fail to avert airport strike

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The Independent Online

Talks aimed at averting a series of new year strikes at airports including Heath-row and Gatwick ended without agreement last night. No further dates have been set for negotiations,although union officials stressed there is still time for another attempt to head off two 24-hour and one 48-hour strike in January.

The first 24-hour walkout is due on 7 January, followed by another strike on 14 January and a 48-hour stoppage from 17 January at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports.

Leaders of the union Unite met for several hours with the airports' owner BAA to try to resolve a row over pensions but the dispute remained deadlocked. Unite represents about 6,000 airport workers employed by BAA, including firefighters and security staff, without whom the airports cannot operate.

The union is protesting against a decision by Ferrovial, the Spanish owner of BAA, to close the company's final-salary pension scheme to new entrants.

Unite said all seven airports will have to close if the strikes go ahead. The union said it was willing to discuss the pension scheme but insisted the decision to close the final-salary scheme had to be reversed.

BAA has said existing employees will not be affected and described strike action as unnecessary.

The date of the first strike, 7 January, is the day when rules on the amount of carry-on baggage are to change.

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