Workers furious as BAA brands World Cup flags hazardous and distracting, and bans them from Heathrow site.

Airport operator BAA has banned workers at Heathrow Terminal 5 from flying England flags from their cars - because it claims they are a safety hazard.

Union officials say workers are outraged at the ruling, which comes a week before the start of the World Cup. The workers are banned from flying flags from cars parked in the site car park, or from on-site vehicles, as BAA believes the flags could come loose and get caught in aeroplane engines.

A BAA spokesperson confirmed: "We have asked workers not to fly flags from vehicles during the World Cup. There is a safety hazard there, bearing in mind that many workers park next to the airfield."

It is understood that the ban is also intended to prevent tension between workers of different nationalities during the World Cup.

The spokesperson acknowledged that although safety was a major reason behind the ban, BAA also wanted to prevent distractions for workers. She said: "We expect business as usual from our workers during the World Cup. We don't want any distractions on site."

However, Frank Westerman, Amicus' regional officer, attacked the ruling as an example of "political correctness gone mad". He said: "We've had to accept it, because of the safety issue, but the workers obviously aren't happy."

BAA and the union have also been in discussions over concerns from night-shift workers on the project that they would miss England's crucial first-round games. However, BAA has refused to relax its working patterns during the tournament.

n BAA this week rejected an improved takeover bid of £9.73bn from Ferrovial, the Spanish contractor that first made a formal hostile approach in March.

BAA rejected the revised offer, despite the fact that at 900p a share it was 11%, higher than its opening bid of 810p.

The airport operator said the board unanimously rejected the offer and it reiterated that it believed BAA was worth more than 940p a share. On Wednesday afternoon, however, as Building went to press, BAA's share price was 870p.