Industrial action is threatening this summer’s big getaway after the trade union Unite gave airports operator BAA seven days’ notice of a strike ballot.

Just over 6,000 staff including security, fire fighting and engineering employees at BAA’s six UK airports will be balloted in a dispute over pay.

BAA has offered a 1% pay rise this year with an additional 0.5% on the table if an agreement over changed sickness rules can be reached and a bonus if targets are hit.

Unite said its members had accepted a pay freeze in 2009 and national secretary Brendan Gold said people were “very aggrieved” and “not prepared to keep on taking the hits”.

The ballot result will be made public on August 12, meaning strikes could take place around the busy end of summer bank holiday period.

BAA, which is owned by the Spanish giant Ferrovial, operates six UK airports including Heathrow, Stansted and Glasgow.

A spokesman said it regretted the decision of Unite to press for industrial action which it said would cause “concern for millions of our passengers”.