Over 6,000 aviation workers — including firefighters, security guards and other ground staff — will vote on a 2% pay increase, plus a one-off payment of £500, after resoundingly rejecting the employer's previous, initial pay offer and voting by a big majority to take strike action.
The workers' union, Unite, called off scheduled strikes after talks at ACAS and will now recommend that its members vote to accept the new deal.
BAA (formerly British Airports Authority until its privatisation in 1986) employees at six major UK airports (Heathrow, Stansted, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Southampton), and initially offered a 1% pay rise with a potential further increase of 0.5% depending on whether workers agreed to changes in their sickness agreements. Unite described the offer as “measly”.
Given the centrality of these workers to the basic running of airports, it is unlikely that they would be able to function during any potential strikes and would have to close. Unsurprisingly, the media attention focused entirely on the detrimental effects any strike would have had on passengers rather than asking why workers who are obviously absolutely vital to the running of airports (more vital, certainly, than the likes of Willie Walsh) aren't valued more highly and paid better.
Although the workers involved in this dispute are employed by a central authority rather than by a specific airline, the parallels and crossovers with the ongoing British Airways dispute are clear. Bosses in the aviation sector are using the climate of economic downturn to attack workers' pay and conditions, and their supporters in the tabloid press are running sensationalist rants about “travel chaos” to build public opposition to any action.
Talks between Unite and British Airways over the cabin crew dispute are set to resume, with the dispute still effectively at a standstill (although BA bosses seem to have an upper-hand). If further strikes do take place, the combined pressure of their action with a potential BAA action could bring aviation bosses to the senses and make them realise that if they really want to avoid “travel chaos” then they should give their workers decent pay and conditions.