UK - UK airport group BAA has called the industrial action over the closure of its final salary pension scheme "unnecessary".

Unite, Britain's largest union, decided during the weekend to vote on strike actions, balloting its members from today until December 20.

If the union's members vote in favour of a strike, Unite could stage its action, involving staff in for instance maintenance, security, and fire fighting at various airports up and down the country, from December 27.

A spokesman for BAA said: "BAA regrets the union's threat of industrial action, particularly in the Christmas period. It is unnecessary and it fails to put the interests of passengers first."

The company added it has called on Unite to participate in talks aimed at averting strike action.

A spokesman for the firm also added: "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."

Unite is worried the scheme's closure to new members will be the beginning of a wider wind-down of the pension arrangements, even though BAA's profits do not demand such a wind-down.

Elsewhere, the Norfolk Fire Brigades Union (FBU)  is combating rules on ill-health pension that, in its opinion, would effectively mean the ending of ill-health pensions in the fire and rescue service.

In a circular to its members published last week, the union argues new guidelines mean anyone who is unable to carry on working could be forced to wait decades before being eligible to claim their pension. FBU finds this "unacceptable".

Until last year, any full-time or retained fire fighter would be entitled to a full ill-health pension if injured while on duty.

However, under proposed changes officers who are able to carry on working in any capacity, will be further employed in a suitable job. If no job can be found the fire fighter will be dismissed and his or her pension will be deferred to the relevant retirement age which is 60 or 65.

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