Heathrow Workers' Union Says it Has Agreed to Deal to End Catering Dispute at British Airways

A union representing catering staff at Heathrow Airport said Monday it had reached a deal to end a dispute that grounded hundreds of British Airways flights last month.

The Transport and General Workers' Union said that following "intensive talks," it had agreed a deal with U.S.-owned firm Gate Gourmet.

Details of the proposal, which must be ratified by the union membership and Gate Gourmet's board of directors, were not immediately released.

Gate Gourmet fired 660 employees for staging an unauthorized walkout over working conditions in London last month. On Aug. 11, British Airways ground crew at Heathrow walked out in sympathy, leading the airline to cancel hundreds of flights, stranding more than 100,000 travelers.

Gate Gourmet, which is owned by Texas Pacific Group and is restructuring after losses, threatened to file for bankruptcy in Britain unless it could sign a deal with British Airways, its biggest client. BA said it was ready to sign a new contract with Gate Gourmet, but only if the company's labor dispute was resolved.

The sticking point was Gate Gourmet's refusal to re-hire all the fired workers. The union demanded the workers be reinstated, and threatened further strike action if they were not.

After talks with the union, Gate Gourmet agreed late last month to seek voluntary layoffs among its workers, including those who were fired for holding the unofficial strike.

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