BAA to meet unions in bid to halt strike action

Management and unions locked in a bitter airport workers' pay dispute will meet at conciliation service Acas on Monday in a bid to stop a strike which could wreck travel plans for millions.

Ground staff workers, represented by union Unite, at six UK airports run by BAA, including Heathrow, have voted three to one to strike.

The Unite workers include firefighters and security staff, with Unite saying that BAA faces a "total shutdown" at the six airports - Heathrow, Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

But Acas has offered to hold talks and today it was agreed that these discussions would take place on Monday.

BAA also said it was ready to meet the unions over the weekend.

Members of the Prospect union, which also represents workers at BAA airports, have also voted in favour of strike action.

Only around half of the 6,000 workers balloted by Unite voted, but 74.1% of those who did vote opted for strike action.

BAA said today: "We look forward to meeting the trade unions at Acas on Monday and are ready to meet over the weekend or any time that the unions are available.

"We hope that we can quickly conclude an agreement, in the interests of the travelling public, our airlines and our staff, the majority of whom did not vote for a strike."

The Unite leaders are due to meet their shop stewards on Monday to decide the next course of action, with no strike dates having yet been announced.

Any strike action will have a huge effect on bank holiday travel at the end of this month.

Air travellers have already been hit this year by the Icelandic ash-cloud crisis and by a series of strikes involving British Airways' cabin crew who are also members of Unite.

In the current groundstaff dispute, Unite leaders regard the BAA pay offer as "measly" but have said there was still time to negotiate and that it would "not take much" to sort out the dispute.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Transport Secretary Philip Hammond have both spoken of the damage that would be caused to businesses, jobs and tourism if a strike went ahead.