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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 December 2007, 20:01 GMT
No agreement over airport dispute
Travellers waiting at Heathrow airport
Travellers are worried about a repeat of the summer's long delays
Talks between unions and airport operator BAA aimed at avoiding industrial action in the New Year have ended without agreement.

The Unite union has called 24-hour strikes on 7 and 14 January, and a 48-hour strike starting on 17 January.

If they go ahead, thousands of people using UK airports, including Heathrow and Gatwick, could be affected.

The strike vote came after BAA's Spanish owners closed its final salary pension scheme to new entrants.

So far, no dates have been set for further negotiations. However, union officials said there was still time to reach an agreement.

The union has said the pension decision must be reversed and blamed the Spanish owners for the problems.

Leaders of Unite and BAA tried unsuccessfully to resolve the dispute on Thursday during talks lasting several hours.

Afterwards, a union spokesman said: "As things stand, the industrial action set to begin on 7 January will go ahead."

A spokesman for BAA said he was disappointed there had not been a resolution and repeated that the changes to the pension scheme would not affect existing staff.

"We will continue to do all we can to resolve this dispute since we believe that a strike would not be in the interests of our passengers or our staff," he said.

The strikes would hit Stansted, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports, as well as Gatwick and Heathrow, and BAA say 1.3 million passengers would be affected.

'Unnecessary'

Previously, Unite national aviation officer Brendan Gold said: "It is not a UK management decision but a decision taken in Spain that I do not believe has the backing of the UK management team."

Unite represents about 6,000 airport workers employed by BAA, including firefighters and security staff, without whom the airports cannot operate.

The date of the first strike, 7 January, is the day when rules on the amount of permitted carry-on baggage are due to change, which was already expected to cause some confusion in airports.

Passengers will be allowed two items of carry-on baggage but only if they are at an airport that has bought a new type of 3D scanner.

Cabin crew at Virgin Atlantic recently announced they would be calling two 48-hour strikes in January in a dispute over pay.

Further delays

Many travellers have already experienced significant problems at the UK's airports over the summer.

Heathrow was one of the worst hit airports, with thousands of travellers queuing for hours following the introduction of tougher security measures.

Should BAA's airports be hit by strike action next month, then it would come at a time when many observers have already voiced concerns about plans to ease the restrictions on the amount of passenger hand luggage.

They have warned that the changes, due to come into force on 7 January, would lead to further delays and confusion for passengers.



SEE ALSO
Airport workers vote for strikes
21 Dec 07 |  Business
Virgin Atlantic crews to strike
20 Dec 07 |  Business
Airport staff to vote on strike
23 Nov 07 |  Business

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