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Airport pay talks continue as Highland MSP urges compromise to avert strike

By Andrew Dixon

Passengers at Inverness Airport – and several other airports – could experience disruption.
Passengers at Inverness Airport – and several other airports – could experience disruption.

FURTHER talks will be held this week over a potential strike by air traffic controllers working for Highlands and Islands Airport Limited (Hial).

Members of the Prospect union are set to strike on April 26, affecting operations at Inverness Airport as well as in Dundee, Wick, Kirkwall, Sumburgh, Stornoway and Benbecula.

They will also take action short of a strike between April 1 and August 31, in a continuing disagreement over their pay offer for 2018-19.

A Hial spokesman said: “Air traffic control officers (ATCOs) are undertaking industrial action to support their claim for a double-digit wage increase for 2018/19 or a long-term commitment to above inflation pay awards.

“Prospect has expressed the view that ATCOs in the Highlands and Islands and Dundee should have parity with ATCOs at London airports including Heathrow and Gatwick.

“We met with Prospect on Friday and continued discussions aimed at averting industrial action. A further meeting will take place on Thursday."

Meanwhile, following a meeting at the Scottish Parliament between Hial and MSPs from around the Highlands and Islands region, Edward Mountain MSP called for a breakthrough.

MSP Edward Mountain.
MSP Edward Mountain.

“It is imperative that both sides continue to negotiate to find a solution that will prevent industrial action and major travel disruption across the Highlands and Islands," he said.

"The local businesses, residents and tourists who rely on these services are desperate to see a breakthrough in negotiations.

"Until that happens, there remains a genuine risk that a 24-hour strike will come into effect on April 26.

"What is potentially more disruptive is the ‘work to rule’ action which will be implemented by air traffic controllers from the beginning of April to the end of August.

"If this threatened action is carried out, there is a real possibility that delayed flights to the Highlands and Islands cannot land and therefore have to remain grounded at their departure airports because Hial air traffic controllers are refusing to work overtime.

"This could seriously inconvenience Islanders travelling by air for hospital appointments or businesses whose employees commute to and from the islands.

"Long-term disruption will test the patience of frequent flyers. It is time for Hial and Prospect union to do everything they can to find a compromise.”

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