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Scottish Government accused of risking 'festive misery' over Highlands and Islands Airports pay dispute

By Scott Maclennan

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Inverness Airport
Inverness Airport

The Scottish Government has been accused of prolonging the stand-off in the current industrial dispute between Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (Hial) and air traffic controllers.

No side has proved willing to back down as yet despite numerous rounds of talks, strike action and work-to-rule which led to flight cancellations.

Air traffic controllers, represented by the Prospect Union, are demanding higher pay to bring them more into line with what their colleagues elsewhere in the country receive.

Regional Labour MSP Rhoda Grant demanded answers at Holyrood from the cabinet secretary for transport, infrastructure and connectivity Michael Matheson amid fears of festive flight misery.

She called on him to lift the pay negotiation restrictions on Hial so it could make an appropriate settlement offer with air traffic controllers.

He responded: “Public sector pay policy applies across all parts of HIAL – that is the policy that applies to all workers within the Highlands and Islands.

"There are no exceptions to that and air traffic control staff are no different from any other members of staff who work for HIAL.

"Those are the arrangements that are in place and will continue to be in place in dealing with these issues.

“Given the very significant offer that has already been made by Hial to air traffic control staff, I encourage them to work actively with Hial to get the matter resolved as quickly as possible and to recognise that they have been made a very generous offer in the present economic climate.”

Mrs Grant said: “The cabinet secretary’s decision means that the dispute between Hial and air traffic controllers is doomed to rumble on, creating travel misery for customers and contributing to a wretched work situation for air traffic controllers.

“Air traffic control officers have been working for years under less than ideal circumstances and the continued obstruction of negotiations and refusal to value their work appropriately is not only impacting on livelihoods, it’s having a significantly detrimental effect on morale.

“It’s almost like the Scottish Government is deliberately trying to drive high-quality jobs out of the Highlands and Islands. They’re certainly doing nothing to prevent it where the Hial negotiations are concerned.”

Related article: Highlands and Islands Airports Limited and Prospect announce new talks in ongoing pay dispute that has affected airports in Inverness, Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Dundee, Stornoway and Benbecula

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