SNP - Tom Wills

Easter strike threat at Sumburgh Airport

Sumburgh airport faces disruption if security staff take industrial action.

FLIGHTS in and out of Sumburgh and other airports across the region face disruption this Easter after security staff announced plans to ballot on strike action.

Members of the Prospect union said they had run out of patience with management at Scottish government-owned Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd after five years of failed negotiations on equal terms and conditions.

Security staff employed by AMSL, which merged with HIAL in 2009, are angry about being discriminated against on issues such as sick pay, shift pay and overtime.

Around 160 employees will ballot on industrial action next week, with a work to rule starting as early as the first weekend of April, which is Easter.

Prospect national secretary Alan Denney said that date should help make the first industrial action “short, sweet and as effective as possible”.

The union is initially looking at a work to rule so that aircraft will not be able to fly outside of normal working hours, but Denney said he expected airport closures across the highlands and islands.

He also called for Scotland’s new fair work secretary Roseanna Cunningham to step into the dispute after ythe government pledged to introduce equal employment conditions.

“It is entirely unacceptable to our members that Scottish ministers are permitting this level of discrimination between workers in the same government-owned business to continue,” he said.

“The unequal employment conditions that prevail are contrary to the concept of ‘fair work’ endorsed by first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who on appointment introduced a cabinet secretary post to deliver this commitment.

“Despite AMSL merging with HIAL six years ago, workers are still receiving inferior terms for work of equal value.

“This includes basic pay, sick pay, shift pay, weekend premium payments, overtime, and annual leave allowances.

“Prospect is seeking an end to these unjustified inequalities across the board, including in sick pay, where AMSL members receive just five half days per annum, in contrast to six months’ full pay – in simple terms – for the staff who manage these members, and other colleagues in the wider group.”

The union claim includes a five per cent increase in basic pay, raising minimum pay levels to £10 per hour.

A HIAL spokesman said the “regretted” the union’s decision to ballot on industrial action.

“We hope that industrial action can be averted but passengers can be assured that we will work hard to keep any disruption to a minimum,” he said.

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