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Transport / Relief as air traffic controllers accept latest pay offer

HIAL employs 55 air traffic controllers.

THE LONG running and at times bitter dispute over pay for air traffic controllers at HIAL airports has finally been resolved after members of the Prospect union overwhelmingly voted to accept a pay deal for 2018 to 2021.

Air traffic controllers at Highlands and Islands Airports Limited, including Sumburgh, will now receive the 2019/20 pay increase already awarded to other HIAL staff, a similar award for 2020/21 plus an unspecified retention payment for a three year period.

Air traffic controllers initially rejected the two per cent pay offer for 2019/20 in November 2018, highlighting that pay rates for air traffic controllers working for Scottish Government owned HIAL had fallen way behind what is paid in the industry.

Union members went on strike for several days during the summer of 2019, thereby creating significant disruption across the airports in the region.

On Friday, Prospect announced its member had accepted the new deal after a preliminary agreement has been reached in November which led to the end of the ‘work to rule’ arrangements.

Prospect’s negotiating offer David Avery said on Friday that this long-running dispute could now be brought to an end.

“Air traffic controllers provide a vital service for the Highlands and Islands and deserve to have their work and skills properly compensated and we are pleased that this deal represents real progress,” he said.

“The deal has required compromise on both sides and I would like to thank Scottish Ministers for giving HIAL the authority to reach a deal, and we look forward to working constructively with HIAL in the future.”

HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon.HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon

HIAL’s managing director Inglis Lyon added: “This now draws the ATC industrial action to a close and we look forward to working with our air traffic control staff as we strive to maintain and develop sustainable airport services for the future.”

The latest development was welcomed by politicians representing the Highlands and Islands.

The Scottish Greens transport spokesman John Finnie said the union deserved enormous credit for holding out for a fair deal for its members.

Highlands and Islands top Green candidate John Finnie: 'we want social justice too' - Photo: Chris Cope/ShetNewsScottish Greens MSP for the Highlands and Islands John Finnie. Photo: Shetland News

“HIAL’s air traffic controllers play a vital role, allowing lifeline flights to service remote, rural and island communities throughout the Highlands and Islands,” he added.

“My constituents will be relieved, as I am, that this long running dispute has finally been resolved.

“The unique role performed by these skilled workers hasn’t always been appreciated by ministers in Edinburgh or officials in Inverness. I hope that will now change.

Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands Jamie Halcro Johnston said the news of a resolution of the dispute was very welcome

“Our air links are vital lifeline connections, particularly for those of us living in the islands. However, this dispute created real uncertainty for passengers across the Highlands and Islands, impacting on personal, business and medical travel,” he said.

“I am still concerned that, despite the impact of this disruption, and with HIAL wholly owned by the Scottish Government, ministers chose to sit on their hands throughout this dispute and failed to make serious efforts to get it resolved earlier.”