Long-running negotiations involving British Airways' ground staff at Heathrow airport appeared close to an end tonight.

The GMB and Unite unions said they had reached agreement in principle with BA regarding staffing and working arrangements and would ballot 3,000 staff with a recommendation they accept the deal.

The deal involves 500 voluntary jobs losses, with 200 staff having already left, and a one-year pay freeze.

Mick Rix, GMB's civil aviation national officer, said: "This new deal, if accepted by our members, will bring to an end a period of uncertainty and speculation regarding the security of employment of members at BA at Heathrow.

"It has been a long hard slog but in the end the negotiations have proved successful and we are recommending the outcome to our members who will now vote on the deal."

BA is still in dispute with its cabin crew in a continuing row that has cost the airline many millions of pounds following a series of strikes this year.

A BA spokesman said: "We have reached a positive conclusion to our discussions with our airport customer services trade unions on a joint proposal that offers us a more flexible, cost efficient and customer-focused ground operation at Heathrow.

"We are pleased that our unions will be recommending to their members that they accept the deal."