Mandate disputed as airports strike talks begin

By staff

Airports operator BAA will seek to avoid crippling strikes in talks with union representatives later.

The negotiations follow last week’s vote by Unite’s airport workers which backed industrial action in a dispute over BAA’s 1.5% pay offer.

The Unite union claimed it had secured a “clear mandate” after 74% of 3,054 votes backed strikes.

But BAA pointed out this represented less than half the 6,185 ballot papers sent out.

“More than half of those eligible to vote in the strike ballot did not do so and we believe the result does not provide a clear mandate for strike action,” it argued in a statement on its website.

“We believe that our offer of a conditional 1.5% pay increase is fair and reasonable during a very difficult economic climate for the aviation industry.”

Shop stewards are meeting today separately to discuss their options. Union chiefs said they wanted to “force BAA back to the negotiating table” by balloting members for industrial action.

“BAA has constantly ignored the contribution its employees make to the ongoing success of the business,” Unite’s national officer for civil aviation Brian Boyd said last week.

“Unite members have delivered a strong message that they deserve more.”

Hundreds of thousands of travellers could find their journeys disrupted if strikes do go ahead. BAA operates Heathrow, Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh airports.

Unite general secretary Tony Woodley has said the union will “do its best” to avoid strikes in today’s talks.