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Transport / Sumburgh Airport to close on strike days

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

SUMBURGH Airport will be closed on 19 and 22 December as a result of strike action, it has been confirmed.

The strike action is being carried out by Unite union members working at Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) in a dispute over pay.

HIAL has now confirmed that three of its 11 airports will be closed on the two strike days – Sumburgh, Barra and Benbecula. However, medical and other emergencies will be serviced from all HIAL airports on both days.

Kirkwall and Stornoway will operate on a limited basis, with the rest of the HIAL open as usual.

Passengers who intend to travel to or from these airports on these days should contact their airline for further information on their flight.

Loganair said passengers booked on flights which will be cancelled will receive an email within the next 24 hours setting out their options. It is also adding some extra Sumburgh-Aberdeen flights on 23 December.

More information on Loganair’s plans can be found online.

Inglis Lyon, HIAL’s managing director, said: “We deeply regret the disruption and inconvenience to our airline partners, passengers, and local communities that this action will cause.

“Against the backdrop of unprecedented financial pressures, we presented an enhanced pay offer to colleagues that maximised the flexibility within the Scottish Government’s pay policy, which HIAL is bound by.

“We recognise the challenges colleagues face due to inflationary pressures and the cost-of-living crisis. However, the claim for a rise of at least RPI is unrealistic, and any further offer must be met from cost savings within existing budgets.

“We will continue dialogue with the trade unions in an attempt to avoid further industrial action.”

A statement on the Loganair website said: “It is hugely disappointing that Unite – The Union has called strike action which will impact Loganair’s customers, and basic community services including mail deliveries, at this critical time.

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“We’re sorry that these cancellations and changes have become necessary and apologise to Loganair customers for this unwelcome news. At the same time, we must ask your understanding that this situation is completely beyond our control and influence.

“We’ll do everything we practicably can to assist customers in re-planning their journeys to take account of this situation.”

The airline’s chief executive Jonathan Hinkles told a meeting of Shetland’s external transport forum on Wednesday that HIAL had hiked charges for using the airport twice this year – resulting in a 15 per cent increase for the airline.

As a result he said he was left confused as to why more progress had not been made on a pay agreement.

The HIAL workforce has already rejected a five per cent offer which they deemed unacceptable amid rising inflation.

Unite industrial officer Shauna Wright previously said: “Unite does not accept that HIAL, a private limited company wholly-owned by the Scottish Government, does not have the ability to increase the offer.

“Claims previously made that it is bound by funding obligations set by the Scottish Government, will not placate our members or settle this dispute.

“Unite is therefore calling on the Scottish Government as a matter of urgency to meet with us, the workers and HIAL and to put forward additional funding that will improve pay, terms and conditions in the Highlands and Islands and bring an end to this dispute.”

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