Union warns BA of further strikes

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The Independent Online

British Airways declared last night that it had finally shifted the backlog of luggage at Heathrow airport - a week after a wildcat strike brought the airline to a standstill.

But belligerent union officials remain at loggerheads with the airline's bosses.

An official spokesman from the GMB - the most militant of the three unions representing BA workers in the dispute over electronic clocking-in cards - warned that the next strike action could happen during the August bank holiday - the earliest possible date for officially sanctioned industrial action.

The warning comes as BA's chief executive, Rod Eddington, prepares for a series of crunch talks with union leaders, beginning with Sir Bill Morris of the T&G tomorrow, and continuing with Amicus representatives on Tuesday. GMB has not requested a meeting with Mr Eddington.

A second walkout would be on a far greater scale than last weekend's unofficial 24-hour stoppage, which was limited to Heathrow but cost the airline an estimated £40m. There is a good chance that the action will spread to Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow airports, with thousands of aircraft engineers thought likely to join check-in staff on the picket lines.

Even if the issue is resolved this week, the bad news for British tourists is that they may be flying into a summer of strikes in Europe anyway.

Across the Continent, industrial action by dozens of separate unions have already affected the holiday plans of thousands of tourists. So far this summer, major strikes have hit seven of the 10 most popular European destinations for British holidaymakers, with more walkouts scheduled.

On Friday, a national strike by rail and maritime workers in Italy brought the country's transport system to a virtual standstill. In addition, thousands of Italian petrol station attendants chose the same day to refuse payments with any debit or credit cards, as part of a separate protest over tax. Further actions are planned by both groups.

Air-traffic controllers and Alitalia pilots have threatened to join the picket lines later in the summer, and Italian bus and subway drivers plan to strike in September.

Greek tourism has also been hit by industrial action. Last month, security staff at museums and archaeological sites were on strike, shutting 370 attractions.

Industrial action has also hit other popular tourist destinations already this summer, with Belgium, Portugal and Ireland all suffering from striking transport workers.