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U.K. Airport Worker Strike Could Cripple System

The Wall Street Journal reports that talks are underway to avoid a U.K. airport workers’ strike that would cripple the air travel system in Britain. According to the WSJ, “Workers including fire fighters, security staff, engineers and support staff at U.K. airports run by BAA Ltd. Thursday voted for industrial action due to a dispute over pay.” Potential strike dates have not yet been announced by Unite, which represents the workers, but could be released soon. British law requires a seven-day advance warning before labor action can commence.

If a strike did take place, it would shut down London’s Heathrow and Stansted airports, along with four others operated by BAA. As with the volcanic ash cloud earlier this year, major shutdowns at Heathrow in particular could snarl air travel throughout Europe and across the Atlantic.

Unite’s joint general secretary Tony Woodley told the Financial Times (registration required) “This is a traditional pay dispute—they had a pay freeze last year  … Our members want to see something that allows them to maintain their standard of living.”

As for the BAA, the agency has taken a beating lately between the recession, aforementioned volcanic ash cloud disruption, and numerous crew strikes at British Airways. It claims to have made a “reasonable” offer to Unite, though clearly not a satisfactory one.

Still, both sides publicly agree that a shutdown of the U.K.’s major airports is hardly ideal, and pledged to work toward a resolution in talks taking place today. As if they’d say anything else!

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