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British Airways staff at London’s Heathrow vote to strike

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
British Airways planes are seen at the Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, July 17, 2020. (Reuters photo)

British Airways staff at London’s Heathrow airport have voted in favor of a strike for better pay, in a move that threatens to disrupt the UK’s busiest airport during an already chaotic summer for air travelers. 

The GMB union said 95 percent of BA staff at Heathrow airport who voted backed the industrial action on Thursday as air passengers across Europe have already faced lengthy delays and cancellations of hundreds of flights in recent weeks, Reuters reported.

The report said airports across Europe are struggling to deal with a shortage of trained staff and strong post-COVID demand. Any strike by Heathrow staff is likely to add to the pressure.

Unions that represent the workers said demands for a 10 percent pay cut slapped during the pandemic to be rolled back have not been met. Around 700 workers had been balloted, of whom 80 percent voted in favor of the strike.

The strike relates to less than half of the airline's Heathrow-based check-in and ground staff in largely customer-facing roles.

The industrial action would likely take place during the peak summer holiday period over the next two months, GMB said, warning Heathrow would likely face a "summer of strikes".

Much of Britain's rail network is already crippled by strikes as union bosses and train operators face-off over demands that workers' pay increases to keep pace with surging inflation.

"We're extremely disappointed with the result," British Airways, owned by International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) (ICAG.L), said in an emailed statement.

"Despite the extremely challenging environment ... we made an offer of a 10% payment which was accepted by the majority of other colleagues. We are fully committed to work together to find a solution."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman called on British Airways to make contingency plans to minimize disruption.

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