British Airways ground staff have voted to accept 500 job losses and changes to work practices in an agreement recommended by officials of trade unions Unite and the GMB.

The deal covers 2,850 BA customer-service workers at Heathrow and appears to contradict a threat by Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley to escalate the long-running struggle between BA and cabin crew to other airline staff.

The cabin crew dispute began last year over changes to staff levels and work practices and has led to 22 days of strikes this year, with Woodley claiming at the weekend:

“It is now clear agreed procedures are being abused for purposes of trying to destroy trade unionism among cabin crew.”

BA chief executive Willie Walsh hailed the ballot result saying: “This is an important step towards securing permanent structural change . . . [and] underlines our commitment to working with all of our trade unions, including Unite.”

The deal follows similar agreements with BA engineers and pilots. Senior figures at the airline and Unite are poised to meet again this week to try to settle the cabin crew dispute.