BA Pensions Ballot!

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Details emerged yesterday of a deal, yet to be agreed by workers, which means the end of final salary pensions at British Airways.

The TGWU said yesterday that the BA Forum of four unions (TGWU, BALPA, GMB and Amicus) has ‘collectively agreed to recommend the agreement.’

The GMB told News Line that it was not making any recommendation to its members.

Under the deal, BA’s 34,000 pilots, cabin crews, engineers, ground staff and check-in staff will have a choice of working till they are 65 or paying higher contributions to the New Airways Pension Scheme (NAPS).

Currently, ground staff pay 5.25 per cent of salary towards their pension and retire at ages between 60 and 63.

Cabin crews are currently able to retire at 55 and pay in 6.5 per cent of salaries a year.

Under the new proposals, staff who want to pay just 5.25 per cent will now have to retire at 65.

Any staff member who wants to retire at 60 can chose to pay 8.5 per cent a year.

Pilots are currently able to retire at 55. Under the new deal, any BA employee who wishes to draw their pensions at 55 will have to pay 17.5 per cent a year.

In a further cut back, pensions will build up at a slower rate than before.

BA will also limit future pensionable pay rises to just the prevailing rate of inflation, so any pay increases above the rate of inflation will not count towards a person’s pension.

The new terms will apply only to future service, earned from next April when the new contribution structure comes into force.

A TGWU statement said yesterday: ‘On Friday 5th January, the trade union side of the BA Forum agreed to recommend to the respective trade union representatives and members changes to future benefits in the New Airways Pension Scheme (NAPS) in order to secure an £800 million lump sum contribution to the scheme by BA and annual employer contributions of £280 million.

‘The final position recommended by the BA Forum will now be put to each of the NSPs (National Sectional Panels) and ultimately to a ballot of all NAPS members.

‘The T&G abstained within the BA Forum as no common position could be agreed across the NSPs.’

A TGWU spokesman told News Line that this was ‘most likely because cabin crews are having a (strike) ballot (over changes to their conditions) and it would be difficult to get them to agree’, to the deal.

• Second news story

BAGHDAD – HEAVY FIGHTING

Puppet Iraqi troops backed by US soldiers, and US fighter jets, and military helicopters launched raids on insurgents in Haifa Street, central Baghdad yesterday.

A fierce firefight marked by a steady barrage of mortar and machine-gun fire raged across central Baghdad as Iraq and US forces launched a crackdown against insurgents.

The Iraqi troops were backed by US fighter jets and helicopter gunships, which hovered above Haifa Street where the battle was centred, and explosions were heard, the US military and witnesses said.

Skirmishes began in the early hours yesterday and by daylight had grown into an intense firefight, forcing residents to steer clear of the district’s main thoroughfares.

The US military said yesterday morning that soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi army division with support from US air and ground forces ‘are conducting targeted raids to capture multiple targets, disrupt insurgent activity and restore Iraqi security forces’ control of north Haifa Street.’

US military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Scott Bleichwehl said in the statement: ‘This area has been subject to insurgent activity which has repeatedly disrupted Iraqi security force operations in central Baghdad.’

He added that the joint forces were coming under small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and indirect fire attacks.

Bleichwehl said that ‘targeted raids have successfully resulted in three arrests this morning.’

Haifa Street is an insurgent bastion from which insurgents regularly fire on puppet Iraqi and US troops.