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UK faces strike-hit Christmas by post, train and air

Associated Press logo Associated Press 17/12/2016

LONDON — The United Kingdom faces a Christmas of discontent as labor unions threaten to disrupt airports, rail services and mail deliveries.

The Unite union and aviation services company Swissport announced negotiation plans Saturday intended to avert a Dec. 23 walkout by 1,500 baggage handlers, check-in staff and other workers at 18 regional airports from Belfast to Bournemouth.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said he hoped "fairness will prevail" in Tuesday's talks.

Swissport retorted that it had made several pay-rise offers to Unite-represented staff since April 2015, but "a minority of trade union members are acting in a cynical fashion to disrupt the travel plans of the public and attempt to hold employers to ransom."

At British Airways, a fourth of the airline's cabin crew members are planning a two-day strike starting on Christmas, Dec. 25. British Airways condemned Unite's timing and vowed to ensure that all customers reached their holiday destinations.

"This calculated and heartless action is completely unnecessary and we are determined that it will fail," the airline said in a statement.

McCluskey countered that the airline "needs to come to the table with a positive offer."

Rolling strikes by two unions at Southern Railway already have disrupted much of England's train services this month, with worker protests over cutbacks in overtime scheduled to go on until Jan. 14.

To top things off, the U.K. Communication Workers Union plans a Post Office strike starting Monday through Christmas Eve.

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