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Transport / Air controllers’ strike back on

The Sumburgh Airport air traffic control tower. Photo: HIAL

AIR travel at Sumburgh Airport is set to be disrupted on 23 May after a new one-day strike was announced as a part of the ongoing air traffic controllers’ pay dispute.

The Prospect union had previously called off a strike on 26 April to allow the company to discuss the dispute further with employer Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL).

But the union said that “no new offer has been made and with no further talks scheduled an offer is not likely to be tabled”.

The strike will directly affect airports at Sumburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Wick, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Benbecula.

Prospect negotiations officer David Avery said: “Members have run out of patience with HIAL. Talks have been ongoing for more than a year to seek to resolve this dispute but to no avail.

“Prospect agreed to withdraw our strike action in April to allow further talks to take place. Members trusted that HIAL would use that time to bring forward proposals to resolve the dispute – HIAL have abused that trust.

“Members do not want to take industrial action but have been left with no choice. If they want to prevent disruption across the Highlands on 23 May and throughout the summer then Scottish ministers need to intervene.”

Action short of a strike – such as controllers not working beyond airport opening hours – has been ongoing for the last number of weeks.

HIAL has said as a public organisation it is bound by the Scottish Government pay policy and “simply cannot implement pay awards that greatly exceed the policy”.

Managing director Inglis Lyon said: “We are bitterly disappointed talks have not delivered a resolution. The union continues to insist on a double-digit wage increase that greatly exceeds government pay policy.

“In addition, the evidence provided in the analysis of air traffic controller pay at non-HIAL airports that Prospect jointly undertook with HIAL does not support a double-digit pay award.

“We are progressing on the assumption strike action will go ahead. We will work closely with our airlines to minimise potential disruption wherever possible.”

Managing director of airline Loganair Jonathan Hinkles said the company was now working on contingency plans.

“It is disappointing that Prospect’s priority seems to have been on announcing a new strike date instead of agreeing new dates to get back around the negotiating table,” he said.

“All that we are hearing is that many of the air traffic controllers themselves are heartily fed up with the situation and just want to get on with their jobs, with only a small group perpetuating this unwelcome dispute.

“We’d warmly welcome immediate and constructive engagement between the parties to the dispute to enable it to be resolved.”