Seasonal cheer could be in short supply for travellers in the run-up to Christmas with industrial action looming on the trains and at Birmingham Airport.

Unite union members at the airport could enforce an overtime ban or work to rule in pursuit of their first pay rise in nearly four years.

They rejected all-out strike action but voted by 88 to 73 in favour of action short of a strike over the long-running pay dispute.

The airport was accused of misleading the public with a statement which revealed only 70 workers had supported a strike and that the vote for a walkout had been defeated.

And in separate transport disputes, industrial conflict was looming at rail operators Cross Country Trains and trouble-torn London Midland, which has seen services crippled by a driver shortage.

Unite union regional official Peter Coulson said of the airport ballot: “We have a clear mandate to take action short of a strike, which we intend to do.

“The airport claims this will affect their passenger numbers but, if that is what it takes to lever the door open for further negotiations, that is what I will do. Action short of a strike would mean a work to rule or an overtime ban, which could quite easily disrupt the airport.”

In a prepared statement, David Winstanley, Birmingham Airport’s operations director, said: “We are very pleased union members have rejected strike action.

“We would like to apologise to our customers for any uncertainty and can reassure those flying through Birmingham Airport this Christmas that it is business as usual.”

But Mr Coulson said: “Birmingham Airport is misleading the general public. They have only put out half a story.”

The union has 28 days before December 17 to take action.

The dispute continued to flare as work began on the airport’s £33 million runway extension with the aim of opening up the West Midlands to more long haul flights.

The work will bring destinations including China, South America, South Africa and the West Coast of the USA within reach.

Meanwhile, rail workers on seven transport cleaning contracts, including those at London Midland, were due to take strike action in a series of disputes over pay and conditions.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union were taking action for varying periods over four days from Thursday November 29.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “This campaign will involve industrial, political and public campaigning that will drag the exploitation of cleaners out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

“As well as naming and shaming the companies involved in this low-pay scandal we are also turning the screw on the train operators and transport bodies responsible for awarding these contracts.

“Each one of these seven separate disputes has the same issue at its core – greedy private contractors who seek to exploit their workforce and offer poverty pay while creaming off fat profits for the company shareholders.”

The strikes will involve up to 1,000 cleaners, affecting ISS contracts on London Midland, East Coast Mainline and London Underground; Carlisle Cleaning contracts on the Transpennine Express and Docklands Light Railway in London; a Churchill’s contract on the Tyne & Wear Metro, and an Initial contract on London Underground.

At Cross Country Trains, whose services radiate out of Birmingham and cover much of England, major points in Scotland as well as Cardiff, the RMT is balloting train managers, senior conductors and on-board catering staff for both strike action and action short of a strike.

It is up in arms at “performance procedures” to “harass and intimidate” members, the alleged forcing out of staff injured at work and disciplining of train managers for non-attendance of duty on a Sunday.

Mr Crow said: “As a result of the total collapse of industrial relations across a whole raft of matters, RMT has now informed Cross Country that a dispute situation exists between our two organisations and that we will remain in dispute until all these issues are resolved to our satisfaction.”