Transport / Strike action could hit Sumburgh Airport over festive period

Sumburgh Airport. Photo © Mike Pennington (cc-by-sa/2.0)

STRIKE action is set to take place at airports in the Highlands and Islands – including Sumburgh – in a dispute over pay.

Members of Unite have voted by 73.5 per cent in favour of taking strike action and by 92.8 per cent in favour of taking action short of strike in a battle to improve pay for rural communities amid a cost of living crisis.

Unite, which represents members across eleven airports in the HIAL group – including those working in fire and rescue, security and administration – will confirm industrial action dates next week.

However the union said strike action could hit airports over the festive period.

The workforce has rejected what it describes as an “unacceptable” five per cent offer with inflation soaring to hit a 40-year high of 14.2 per cent (RPI).

HIAL is owned by the Scottish Government.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Airport workers across Highland and Island communities simply can’t afford to live on their current wages.


“To then present them with what amounts to a significant pay cut at a time of rocketing living costs leaves them with no other course of action but to take a stand.

“The Scottish Government and HIAL have to act to deliver on pay or face a rural workforce crisis.

“Unite’s members working across these eleven airports have emphatically backed industrial action and they will have their union’s full support in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.”

Unite said HIAL claims it is bound by funding obligations set by the Scottish Government.

It is calling on the Scottish Government to meet with the trade union, the workers and HIAL to improve pay, terms and conditions in the Highlands and Islands.

Unite industrial officer Shauna Wright added: “We urgently need HIAL and the Scottish Government to get round the table.

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“It’s an imperative that the relevant parties work together to save rural communities and retain jobs in the Highlands and Islands.

“With the necessary political will, we believe that our members’ pay, terms, and conditions across HIAL airports can be improved.”

A HIAL spokesperson said: “Unite’s media statement is unhelpful as it does not explain what industrial action will take place, or the dates it will commence.

“This makes it difficult for airlines and their customers to plan, creating unnecessary anxiety for passengers and communities over the festive period.

“We recognise the challenges our colleagues face due to inflationary pressures and the cost-of-living crisis. Nonetheless, we are disappointed that they have voted for industrial action.

“The enhanced offer we presented maximised the flexibility within the Scottish Government’s pay policy.

“HIAL will do all it can to minimise any disruption caused by industrial action over the festive period and we urge Unite to continue to engage in constructive dialogue and work with us to find a resolution.”

It comes after teachers recently went on a one-day strike in Shetland and across Scotland, while Royal Mail workers have held regular strikes over the last few months.

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