The threat of preChristmas strikes at major United Kingdom airports has been averted but post-New Year strikes at Palma, and other key Spanish airports, are now threatened. Spanish union bosses warned yesterday that strikes by baggage handlers and ground staff early next year across Spain can not be ruled out if Spanish airport body AENA decide to put Iberia's ground handling contracts at 26 of Spain's smaller airports and 15 of the larger ones, including Palma, up for tender. UGT general workers union air transport boss Francisco Rodríguez warned yesterday the first quarter of next year could be a tense one and it could become increasingly difficult to operate in and out of Spanish airports if AENA goes ahead and puts the contracts up for tender, when they expire at the end of May, instead of prolonging the contracts while satisfactory solutions are worked out with the unions. AENA has made it clear that it does not intend to take such action until union bosses and handling company managers have managed to strike a deal securing the future of the 12.000 people currently employed in the airport handling sector. However, the UGT wants guarantees, otherwise Spain's key airports will be rocked by industrial action. Passengers flying between the Balearics and the UK this Christmas and New year will be able to enjoy the festive season after all. Union officials agreed the deal with British Airports Authority (BAA) management after 10 hours of negotiations in the early hours of yesterday morning. The offer, an 8% increase over two years, will be recommended to T&G members ahead of a final postal ballot. About 6'000 firefighters, security staff and engineers at seven airports, including Heathrow and Gatwick, had threatened to hold three days of strikes over the festive period if a deal was not reached. T&G general secretary Bill Morris said the deal, which worked out at about £1'500 extra a year, was good news for low paid workers and good news for the travelling public. The deal has actually addressed one of our key concerns, that was to do something additional for our low-paid workers, he said. It's a long-term deal, it's over two years which will give the company stability in its planning and its strategic development. But what is even more important is there'll be no disruption, no strikes or any form of disruption... passengers can fly off and enjoy their Christmas.