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Transport / Union says air traffic controllers ‘forced into strike action’ by HIAL plans

Sumburgh Airport was affected by strike action on 29 July. Photo: Ronnie Robertson

UNION members working in air traffic control for Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) say they have been “forced” into strike action which has caused flights at Sumburgh Airport to be cancelled.

The airport, along with Benbecula, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway, will close tomorrow (Thursday) to all but emergency flights as a result of action over plans to centralise air traffic control in Inverness.

The union Prospect says government-owned HIAL’s plans will “remove high value jobs from remote communities, impacting strongly on those economies, and result in forced redundancies as people are unwilling to relocate from the communities they love and serve, to Inverness”.

On the eve of the strike Prospect negotiator David Avery said: “Prospect members have been forced into strike action to protect jobs in the communities they serve.

“HIAL must halt its plan which will remove high value, skilled jobs from economies that can ill-afford to lose them, having a substantial negative impact on those communities.

“Prospect members are not averse to change but it has to be done in a way that maintains jobs and skills in remote communities.

“The Scottish Government also has the power to step in on this debate but has so far refused to even engage with its own elected representatives in the areas affected. If it was serious about standing up for the Highlands and Islands it would intervene.”

Earlier this week HIAL chief Inglis Lyon apologised for the disruption in flights and said it was “extremely disappointing that strike action is going ahead despite months of work with Prospect to agree a number of policies to support our colleagues’ transition to our air traffic management programme”.