Scottish airports likely to shut as strikes called

Air traffic controllers in the Highlands and Islands are to strike next month in a dispute over pay.

Several airports across the Highlands and Islands could be forced to shut due to the strike. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Prospect union said that Dundee, Inverness, Wick, Kirkwall, Sumburgh, Stornoway and Benbecula airports will be affected by the strike action on 26 April.

Air traffic controllers working for Highlands and Islands Airport Limited (HIAL) will also begin action short of a strike on 1 April, which will carry on until 31 August.

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Their action will include an overtime ban, an instruction to work to rosters and the withdrawal of good will.

Prospect claims members’ pay has fallen significantly behind the rest of the industry due to public sector pay restraint.

The union said it will seek to agree a protocol with HIAL to ensure cover for emergency incidents during the period of the strike.

Prospect negotiations officer David Avery said “Prospect members have agreed to delay any strike action until after the Scottish school holidays have concluded.

“Our members do not want to stop their friends and neighbours visiting their families during the school holidays.

“I urge HIAL and Scottish Ministers to use the additional time members have given them to bring forward real proposals to resolve the dispute rather than the same offer which has already been rejected twice.”

Prospect last week said that 88 per cent of controllers had voted for strike action, with 90 per cent backing action short of a strike.

Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur from the Lib Dems, has written to transport secretary Michael Matheson asking him to “do everything possible to bring both sides together in a bid to avoid this damaging industrial action taking place”.

He and fellow Lib Dem Tavish Scott, the MSP for Shetland, said: “There is absolutely no doubt that any industrial action on these routes would be hugely damaging to our island communities.

“From isles patients attending hospital appointments to local businesses trying to remain competitive, these services are a genuine lifeline.

“Even at this late stage, we would urge HIAL and the unions to get back round the table and resolve this dispute.

“Ministers must do everything possible to help broker a resolution and avoid the massive disruption any airport closures would inevitably cause.”

Scottish Greens transport spokesman and Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie said: “The Scottish Ministers own HIAL and have a responsibility to ensure this situation is resolved urgently, with a fair settlement for staff.

“It’s perhaps no surprise that the transport secretary refused to say he had confidence in HIAL’s management the last time I asked him. I continue to offer solidarity to Prospect and its members.”