British Airways was yesterday hit by a fresh threat of industrial action after ground staff rejected planned changes to the airline’s pension scheme.
The GMB union, which represents 4,500 baggage handlers, ticketing staff and other workers, said its members voted by two to one against moves aimed at tackling BA’s #2 billion pension fund deficit. The union said it could not rule out holding a ballot for industrial action, although talks are to be held tomorrowat Heathrow with Willie Walsh, BA’s chief executive, to try to resolve the row.
Ed Blissett, GMB national officer, said: "GMB members covered by the British Airways pension fund have given the union a strong mandate to reject the company’s pension fund offer.
"The members clearly believe that the current pension offer favours the highest-paid workers in BA at the expense of the lowest-paid.
"GMB members do not want to cause the travelling public any inconvenience and so they have asked their negotiators to try to negotiate a settlement with BA.
"However, GMB cannot rule out the possibility of an industrial action ballot if negotiations are unsuccessful."
A planned strike by thousands of cabin crew last month was averted at the eleventh hour after a deal to resolve a separate row over pay, staffing and sickness absence.
However, BA had to cancel over 1,000 flights from Heathrow and Gatwick airports costing cost the firm #80 million.
BA and the trustees of the New Airways Pension Scheme (NAPS) formally agreed the funding plan including benefit changes to tackle the #2.1 billion deficit.
The plan, which was agreed in principle with the trustees last year, includes annual company contributions of some #280 million for the next ten years and a one-off cash injection of #800 million.
It also includes benefit changes to take effect from April and an additional #150 million in cash over the next three years, subject to the airline’s financial performance.
The benefit changes will deliver an immediate deficit reduction of some #400 million and a saving of some #80 million a year.
BA pilots voted by 94 per cent to endorse the pensions package, the British Airline Pilots Association announced.