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Union agrees to ease air traffic control industrial action to avoid delaying island election counts

By Alasdair Fraser

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Air traffic control at Wick airport.
Air traffic control at Wick airport.

Air traffic controllers with one trade union have agreed to ease industrial action to ensure the smooth-running of Scottish parliamentary election counts.

Members of the union Prospect decided to ease the terms of their action against employer Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) to enable transport of ballot boxes from the islands to the mainland for counting.

Prospect air traffic controllers at HIAL are currently in dispute with the employer over plans to centralise air traffic control services in Inverness.

They say the move would mean the loss of high-value jobs from Highland and Islands economies.

The industrial action currently includes: work to rosters, an overtime ban and refusal of extensions except for search and rescue, emergency and medical flights.

It also includes refusal to commence training of new controllers who were not yet within the business on November 30 last year.

Votes from the islands are transported by plane to the mainland once polls close.

Prospect members agreed to lift the overtime ban for flights carrying ballot papers, meaning air traffic controllers will be free to work late on the usual voluntary basis.

Prospect negotiator David Avery said: “Prospect members in HIAL are participating in industrial action because they care about the communities they serve.

“These communities will suffer significant negative consequences, both in terms of jobs and potentially safety, if the remote towers project goes ahead.

“However, because our air traffic controllers are so embedded in their communities, they are anxious not to impede the delivery of democracy to the islands, especially with many islanders planning to use their ballots to send a message on this issue.

“As a result, Prospect is lifting its overtime ban for the purposes of allowing votes to be transported once the polls are closed.

“Air traffic controllers normally participate in the election night rota on a voluntary basis and this will still be the case next week.

“With the exception of these flights, our industrial action continues as normal.

“Hopefully the new parliament will see sense and put an end to the remote towers plan which will damage island communities and totally undermine the Islands Act.”

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