Ballots for strike action among thousands of workers at airports and Virgin Atlantic airline in separate disputes over pay and pensions end today, bringing the threat of travel chaos a step closer.
More than 5,000 firefighters, security, maintenance, administrative and clerical staff at BAA's seven airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick and Glasgow, have been voting on whether to take industrial action in protest at the closure of the final salary pension scheme to new workers.
Unite, which represents the workers, is confident of a vote in favour of strikes, which would lead to the threat of action in the new year. Voting ends today and the result is expected to be announced tomorrow.
Brendan Gold, Unite national officer, said: "BAA has just posted profits of over £500 million and the Spanish owners Ferrovial have seen their profits rise by nearly 60%. It is clear that the pension scheme is financially sound, and should be left alone."
Mr Gold said BAA and Ferrovial should understand that the workforce has lost trust in them. Not allowing new employees to join the company's final-salary pension scheme after December 1 was viewed as being the first step in the axing of the whole scheme for everyone.
"It is no wonder BAA has a strike ballot on its hands coming up to one of its busiest seasons. The timing of this dispute is entirely down to BAA and its Madrid paymasters."
The strike ballot covers Unite members at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
In the event of a "yes" vote the union will have 28 days to take any action, and is required to give seven days' notice of any walkout.
The union warned that if industrial action does take place, it is "inevitable" that airports affected will be closed.
BAA said it regretted the union's threat of industrial action, describing it as unnecessary.
A spokesman said: "BAA has given clear and unequivocal assurances that existing employees will not be affected by the end of the final-salary pension scheme and that its replacement for new employees will be of the highest quality.
"During the past few weeks we have offered to give more detailed assurances to union representatives. We believe the way to resolve this is through negotiation."
Meanwhile more than 3,000 cabin crew at Virgin Atlantic have been voting on whether to take industrial action over pay.
The airline said it had offered a two-year deal worth 8.3% on basic pay.
Lyell Strambi, Chief Operating Officer at Virgin said: "Virgin Atlantic does value its many employees who have built the airline's excellent reputation for customer service and we know our cabin crew would not want to damage that reputation."