Unions, bosses to hold talks over British airport strikes

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Unions and management were to hold crisis talks with a conciliation service on Monday in an attempt to halt a strike by key workers which could shut down six British airports on a key holiday weekend.

Members of the Unite union, including firefighters and security staff, voted by three to one to take action over pay.

There are fears that the union will target the three-day August 28-30 holiday weekend, one of the busiest periods of the year for air travel.

Any action will affect not only London Heathrow airport -- the world's busiest international passenger air hub -- but also London Stansted and Southampton in England, and Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen in Scotland.

Unite and the airports' management company BAA have accepted an invitation from conciliation service Acas to hold talks on Monday.

Tony Woodley, joint leader of Unite, insisted it was not the union's intention to target the public holiday weekend.

"It is a very busy bank holiday weekend, the last thing genuinely we want to do is to have a disruption on our hands.

"That's why I'm very pleased we're at Acas on Monday talking again with the company and the company will hopefully see a little bit of sense," he told Sky News television.

Only around half of the 6,000 workers balloted by Unite voted, but almost 75 percent who did cast their votes opted for strike action.

BAA said: "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."

No strike dates have yet been announced, but the Unite leaders are also due to meet their shop stewards on Monday to decide the next course of action.

A fresh strike would be the latest hurdle in a troubled year for air travellers.

European airspace was shut by the Icelandic ash-cloud crisis earlier this year and British Airways services have been hit by a series of cabin crew strikes.

© 2010 AFP

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