Unite, Britain’s biggest union is raising serious concerns at the likelihood of BAA being forced to sell three of the UK’s seven airports. The union is warning that the specter of job losses and attacks on existing terms and conditions of employment could be the unacceptable reality of any break up.

Unite represents more than 75,000 civil aviation workers throughout all of the UK’s Airports, and over 6000 members employed directly by BAA.

Unite national officer, Brian Boyd, said:

“When big business comes out in support of what now looks like the imminent break up of BAA, there seems to be no mention of the very real possibility of job losses, reduced terms and conditions of employment, and the stress that major announcements like this can bring to ordinary workers and their families.

“Unite along with other trade unions represented at BAA, have only just resolved the dispute surrounding the BAA pension scheme. Any further disruption relating to what now looks like a sell off of three airports, would most certainly bring a concerted reaction from those same trade unions.

“Last year industrial action at BAA over pensions was only averted by a commitment to embark on a full and thorough period of consultation with the trade unions. This being concluded, Unite was of the opinion that a period of stability for our members employed by BAA would prevail. This no longer seems to be the case.”

Unite national secretary, Steve Turner, said:

“Any attempt to break up BAA will be resisted. This union and our members will not sit back while the market plays games with their jobs and their terms and conditions of employment.

“Airports are an essential part of the UK’s transport infrastructure, they are the gateway to our nation and further development and expansion is central to plans for economic growth and success.

“If what is being said is that the privatization of the UK’s airport infrastructure has failed, as it has following the sell off many other areas of privatized infrastructure and utilities, perhaps now it is the time to bring this essential infrastructure back under public control. A break up of the BAA would see economies of scale removed and many of the benefits to passengers of retail operations being lost. We see no benefit to our members or the traveling public from any break up.

“The future of current finance commitments to planned capital expenditure by BAA’s Spanish owner Ferrovial, who raised GBP10 billion of debt to purchase BAA, is also a real concern for Unite. If the Commission’s view is upheld and key areas of the company’s operations are put under enforced sale it may well lead to the airports being sold off under market value. We are seeking urgent discussions with the company in the wake of the commission’s thinking.”