Unite has sent out ballot papers to more than 6,000 BAA workers in the ongoing dispute over pay.

A total of 6,185 members of staff including security personnel, engineers, firefighters and support staff at airports including Heathrow, Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh are being balloted.

Should they vote to strike, the airports are likely to be closed during any action thanks to the key role the staff play in the airport’s safety.

Staff are being balloted over an ongoing pay dispute. In 2009 they accepted a pay freeze and are now unhappy over a 1% pay increase with a further 0.5% on the table depending on whether or not staff accept changes to the sickness agreement.

Staff are also unhappy after a bonus dependent on BAA meeting its EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) targets was cancelled when the airport operator missed the target by 3%.

Brendan Gold and Brian Boyd, Unite’s national officers for civil aviation, said: “BAA’s measly pay offer is nothing short of confrontational.

“Last year, staff accepted a pay freeze, their generosity helped the company, BAA has returned  the favour with no bonus and a one per cent pay offer when inflation is currently five per cent.

“Over 6000 BAA staff will now begin receiving ballot papers asking them if they are prepared to take strike action.

“Unite and BAA have been in talks for months and we are prepared to continue talking. A negotiated agreement can be reached if the company is prepared to be fairer and more realistic.”