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STRIKE: Air traffic controllers to take a day of action on Thursday July 29 over move to remote towers in Inverness

By Louise Glen

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HIAL plan to move into New Century House.
HIAL plan to move into New Century House.

Trade union members working in air traffic control for Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) are to stage a one day strike on 29 July over plans to centralise air traffic control in Inverness.

The one day strike marks an escalation in the industrial action which has been ongoing since January.

The work stoppage will be effective from 00.01 on July 29 for 24 hours.

HIAL plan to move into New Century House in Inverness.

Prospect members in HIAL voted to continue industrial action, including the option for a strike, in June having initially voted for the action at the end of last year.

They are taking the action because HIAL is pressing ahead with plans to close air traffic towers in the Highlands and Islands, centralising services in Inverness.

Unions say this would remove high value jobs from remote communities, impacting strongly on those economies, and result in forced redundancies as people are unwilling to relocate from the communities they love and serve, to Inverness.

The union claims ministers in the Scottish Government have refused to even meet those communities involved to discuss the impact this project would have on them.

David Avery, Prospect negotiator, said: “Our members have been forced into this escalation of industrial action to protect the communities they serve. HIAL’s plan will remove high value skilled jobs from economies that can ill-afford to lose them, having a substantial negative impact on those communities.

“The Scottish Government has the power to step in on this debate but the minster hasn’t even taken the time to meet the local councils involved, or indeed is own MSPs, to discuss the impact of the remote towers project.

"We have since had the bizarre situation where UK minister Michael Gove discussed the matter with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar while the minister refuses to meet with us.

“Prospect members are not averse to change but it has to be done in a way that maintains jobs and skills in remote communities. HIAL needs to halt these plans now so our members can get on with their jobs.”

Inglis Lyon, HIAL’s managing director, said: “We are extremely disappointed to have received this formal notice without any prior intimation from Prospect.

“This action will inflict additional disruption and inconvenience on passengers at such a crucial time for the communities of the Highlands and Islands. It will also have an impact on the aviation sector which serves them and which is seeking to get back on its feet following the worst of the pandemic.

“We will work closely with our airline partners to keep disruption to a minimum and apologise for the undoubted inconvenience this action will cause.

“Given the positive response from Prospect to the policies relating to the modernisation project this is bitterly disappointing. We ask that Prospect work with HIAL on completing the policy work before considering strike action and to meet with HIAL in the interim to agree how this might happen.”

READ: Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial) hopes to buy air traffic control simulator to help train staff ahead of centralisation of operations at New Century House in Inverness

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