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Transport / End in sight for air traffic controllers’ dispute

Latest HIAL offer to be put to the ballot

A quiet Sumburgh Airport as seen on the Shetland Webcams website.

THE END could be in sight for a long-running dispute between Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL), which includes Sumburgh Airport, and air traffic controllers.

The Prospect union this morning (Tuesday) announced the end of a work to rule as of 5pm following a “preliminary agreement” between the two sides that will form the basis of a pay offer to be put to members “shortly”.

A Prospect statement said on Tuesday: “A number of details need to be concluded so there will be further talks this week, and a ballot will follow shortly.

“As a result Prospect has decided to suspend our work to rule whilst we consult our members. The work to rule will end at 5pm on 19 November.”

Managing director of the government-owned HIAL Inglis Lyon said: “We are pleased to advise that our talks to resolve the current air traffic control dispute have progressed and Prospect will put our revised offer to their membership. Following a  further meeting this week to finalise the detail, Prospect will recommend the offer to their members.”

He added that once the work to rule was lifted “a full service will be available to cover out of hours service provision.”

HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon.HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon

A statement from lifeline air service provider Loganair said: “Clearly, we would warmly welcome initiatives to bring this long-running and damaging dispute to a close.

“The impact on island air services since it began in April has been significant. We very much hope that the wider communities’ need for a resolution to the dispute may also be taken into account by each individual when voting to accept or decline this new offer.”

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur also welcomed the progress being made to end the industrial action.

McArthur said: “This long-running dispute has caused uncertainty and disruption for passengers reliant on these lifeline air services. It is also come at a cost, both financial and reputational.

“I welcome the fact that agreement has been reached at last between HIAL and Prospect, enabling the union to recommend to its members acceptance of the offer now on the table. Hopefully this will allow a resolution to what has been a damaging dispute that has gone on for months.”

He said that lifting of the work to rule pending the outcome of the ballot would be a “relief” to travellers.

He added: “The unpredictability of this aspect of the dispute has proved particularly disruptive.

“Looking further ahead, it is also clear that work will be needed to rebuild important relationships that have suffered as a result of the industrial action. Re-establishing trust on both sides is the surest means of avoiding a repeat of such action in the future”.

The offer is just the latest in a string of manoeuvres between HIAL and Prospect in the dispute. On 4 September air traffic controllers rejected the last pay offer from the company which had been made the previous month.

On 4 July HIAL rejected a counter-proposal tabled by the union following an earlier union rejection of HIAL’s offer and triggering a series of one-day strikes.

The airport operator previously said that as it was government-owned it had to stick to public pay scales.