Air traffic controllers vote for industrial action

Air traffic controllers working in the Highlands and Islands are considering strike action which could see the temporary closure of some airports over the summer.

Highlands and Island Airport Limited (HIAL) said the vote in favour of industrial action by members of the Prospect union would have a “significant impact on passengers”.

HIAL runs Inverness, Dundee, Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Benbecula and Wick airports.

Prospect said 88% of controllers had voted for strike action, with 90% backing action short of a strike.

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

HIAL said as a government-sponsored agency it must follow Scottish Government policy on pay.

And it said comparisons with the remuneration of controllers at Heathrow and Gatwick were not appropriate given the differences in volumes of traffic and in the cost of living.

Consultations will get under way next week on the plans for industrial action, which will likely start in April and continue through the summer.

HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon said in a letter to stakeholders on Friday that if a strike cannot be avoided its airports will close.

David Avery, Prospect negotiations officer, said: “Our members at HIAL undertake highly skilled roles, much in demand across the UK and Europe, but due to public sector pay restraint their pay has fallen significantly behind the rest of the industry.

“Air traffic controllers do not want to have to take this action but ministers’ refusal to engage with the issue of pay has left them with no choice.

“Prospect remains ready to negotiate at any point to avoid this action but ministers must come back to the table with a new meaningful offer.”

Mr Lyon said in a statement: “We are disappointed Air Traffic Control (ATC) colleagues have chosen to take industrial action that is likely to have a significant impact on passengers and the communities we serve in the Highlands and Islands.

“HIAL made a pay award offer to all staff which was accepted following an overall ballot of trade union members and paid to all staff at the end of September 2018.

“This was backdated to April 1 2018 and saw colleagues receive increases of up to 3% in line with Scottish Government Pay Remit Guidelines.

“Prospect ATC members rejected the pay settlement, but nonetheless received the increase.

“We are open to holding further talks with Prospect on a recruitment and retention allowance for ATC staff that would further bolster an attractive remuneration package that already includes excellent pension benefits and holiday entitlements.”

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