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Last Updated: Monday, 31 December 2007, 18:49 GMT
First UK airport strike is halted
Woman walking through airport
Unions said they attempted to minimise disruption to passengers
Union leaders have called off the first of three strikes, set for 7 January, that threatened to paralyse some of the UK's busiest airports.

The decision comes after airport operator BAA called for last minute talks to resolve concerns about its plans to alter workers' pension rights.

The strikes would affect all of BAA's seven UK airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh.

Airport operator BAA has said 1.3 million passengers would be affected.

Outline terms

The unions involved, Unite and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCSU), had called for three strikes.

They were scheduled to take place for 24 hours starting at 0600 GMT on 7 and 14 January, and 48 hours from 0600 GMT on 17 January.

The planned industrial action was in protest at the closure of final salary pension scheme to new workers by BAA 's Spanish owners, Ferrovial.

Union officials said that the first strike was called off after progress was made during Monday's talks.

The outline of a deal over the pension scheme has been reached and will now go to union delegates for ratification.

Should it be approved, then the strikes on 14 and 17 January will also be called off.

Under the terms of the plan, BAA and the unions will meet to jointly consider the future of the pension plan, and call in independent experts to assess its financial state.

Limit impact

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

Following a productive discussion, BAA and the trade unions have reached an agreement in principle
BAA spokesman

Its members also include maintenance and clerical staff.

Last week unions and BAA executives spent several hours in talks that ended without a breakthrough.

The trade unions had insisted the decision to close the final salary pension scheme must be reversed before strikes were called off and negotiations on the future of the scheme were held.

Brendan Gold, Unite national aviation officer, had earlier said that the unions had avoided taking industrial action over the Christmas holiday period to limit the impact on the travelling public.

However, he stressed that workers were determined to secure the future of the pension scheme for all members.

A spokesman for BAA said: "Following a productive discussion, BAA and the trade unions have reached an agreement in principle.

"The trade unions will now consult their members on the proposed agreement and, to allow sufficient time for that, have agreed to call off the industrial action planned for 7 January.

"BAA and the trade unions will meet again on 4 January."

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