LONDON, Feb 16 ― Airbus workers at two of the European aerospace giant's UK factories voted yesterday to strike over a pay dispute, with industrial action potentially starting as early as March.

Around 3,000 employees “overwhelmingly” backed a strike call after Airbus refused to improve its “unacceptably low” pay offer for 2021 following a pay freeze in 2020, the Unite union said.

On a ballot with an 84-percent turnout, 94 percent of Unite Airbus members voted for strike action at the company's sites in Filton, southwest England, and Broughton in Wales.

The factories design, test and manufacture wings for the firm's commercial aircraft.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham called on Airbus to make a “sensible offer”, amid rising living costs, before the dispute “escalates further”.

“There is no excuse ― Airbus can well afford to pay its workers the decent rise they deserve, and it should move to do so without delay,” she said.

Airbus said in a statement that it was “disappointed” by their employees' decision, given the “damaging impact” it would have on its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Airbus in the UK managed to successfully navigate the first waves of the pandemic without the need for any compulsory redundancies at a cost of more than £100m (RM567 million),” the statement continued.

“We made our pay offer in the context of the pandemic's impact on our business and the wider benefits... employees receive.”

Airbus stressed it was “committed to ongoing dialogue with the trade union to help bring this situation to a successful resolution”. ― AFP