UK - The 4,500 baggage handlers working for British Airways (BA) have rejected suggestions by the management on how to deal with a £2.1bn (€3.2bn) pension hole.

The members of the GMB union who are covered by the British Airways Pension Scheme  have voted by 2-1 against the management proposal. It would see BA pay £800m into the final salary scheme before May and around £280m for the next 10 years. In turn, some members' benefits would be decreased.

"The members clearly believe that the current pension offer favours the highest paid workers in BA at the expense of the lowest paid," said GMB's lead negotiator Ed Blisset.

He stressed that the union 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".

A further round of talks will be held on Wednesday. But the GMB has already stated that it cannot exclude a strike action ballot if negotiations are unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, members of the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) have accepted the pension deal with 94% of the votes for and 6% against it. 

"We had two objectives - to retain the final salary pension scheme as close to the present plan as possible and to improve the new defined contribution scheme so that it becomes a market leader," BALPA chairman Mervyn Granshaw commented. He said that after 15 months of "painstaking" negotiations both goals were achieved.

At the largest union within BA, the Transport and General Workers Union (T&G) the ballot will most likely commence during this week, a spokesman told IPE.

GMB is the only among the four main unions, T&G, Amicus, BALPA, to have recommended a negative vote to its members.