SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott has called on the Unite union to allow NHS patients from the Northern Isles to fly to Aberdeen during the airport’s upcoming strikes.
As previously reported, around 170 Unite members have voted for 24-hour strike action at Aberdeen International Airport on 20 July, 2 August and 16 August in a dispute over pay.
Scott has now appealed to Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty to consider a “compromise” which would see a guaranteed minimum level of fire and security coverage for flights to and from Shetland and Orkney to allow patients to travel to appointments in Aberdeen.
“The strike action would affect not only leisure and business travellers, but also NHS patients travelling from Orkney and Shetland for treatment on the mainland. Any avoidable delay in receiving essential treatment is unacceptable,” he said.
“Many of these passengers have been waiting for their appointments for months if not years, and have no way to access the treatment and specialists they need at home. Travelling out with the isles for medical treatment is already stressful for vulnerable isles residents without the added anxiety caused by cancellations.
“Rescheduling appointments is not easy for those living in remote communities and patients may have a lengthy wait for another opportunity to travel. The right to strike is an important one and I understand that strikes have to cause disruption in order to be effective. But, I urge your members to carefully consider this compromise: Loganair flights from the North Isles use smaller aircraft which require a lower level of fire service cover.
“Therefore, Unite members could guarantee a minimum level of fire and security coverage on the proposed strike dates, allowing life-line Orkney and Shetland flights to continue for essential medical travel. I hope further discussions will resolve the dispute before any strike action goes ahead and that the needs of North Isles passengers are at the forefront of your decision making.”
A Loganair spokesman confirmed on Tuesday that the airline, which serves the Northern Isles, was working on contingency measures in the event of strikes.
“This would involve, firstly, offering customers a free change of reservation onto other dates or routes, and then operating a reduced schedule of Aberdeen flights into alternative airports including Inverness and Dundee,” he said.
Aberdeen International Airport said it is “seeking a suitable date to continue our discussions in an attempt to reach a mutually agreeable position”, while Unite regional officer Wullie Wallace said the union is open to talks.