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Airwave strike threats as Macquarie takes over

Aussie subtlety could leave coppers radio-less

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O2's owner Telefonica has flogged emergency services radio outfit O2 Airwave to the Australian banking and telco group Macquarie - and the new owner has promptly pissed off Airwave's staff so much that some are threatening to strike.

A strike at Airwave would interrupt the push-to-talk radio systems used by the police and other emergency services. They could use mobile phones instead, but when major incidents have occurred - such as the 7/7 bombings in London - Airwave has coped when the mobile networks have not.

Macquarie's gaffe was to shutter Airwave's final-salary pension scheme, less than one hour after closing its £1.9bn purchase from the Spanish mobile operator. It said it would transfer workers - Airwave has around 800 staff - to a new 'defined contribution' plan.

In response, Airwave staff claimed that the bank deliberately misled them during the acquisition talks, and the deputy general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, Jeannie Drake, described Macquarie's action as "outrageous and disrespectful" and said it would "enrage workers and generate real concerns over the new owners of their company."®

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