Highlands & Islands

Air traffic controllers hold strike ballot

Dundee Airport Image copyright Google
Image caption Dundee is one of 11 regional airports operated by Hial

Air traffic controllers working for Highlands and Islands Airport Limited (Hial) are being balloted on strike action in a dispute over pay.

Controllers who are members of the Prospect union rejected a 2% pay offer made last year.

The union said it was balloting its members because efforts to resolve the dispute had failed.

Hial, which operates 11 regional airports, said it was committed to continuing "constructive discussions".

Hial is owned by the Scottish government. They said all of the company's staff were given a pay rise, which was a "significant improvement" on previous years.

Seven airports would be affected by potential strike action. They are Benbecula, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh and Wick John O'Groats.

Hial's airports Barra, Campbeltown, Islay and Tiree do not have air traffic controllers.

Prospect said an indicative ballot in October suggested members "strongly backed" strike action.

'Budget cuts'

Before Christmas, the union said they had jointly agreed an "evidence-based business case" with Hial.

It set out the pay gap between Hial and the rest of the industry, the staff shortages this had caused and the risk to recruiting and retaining controllers.

Prospect said ministers had since rejected the business case.

The union's David Avery said: "Our members have tried every other means to resolve this dispute but by rejecting a fair and reasonable proposal to resolve the dispute ministers have left them with no option but to pursue strike action."

Andrea Sillars, of Hial, said the company was disappointed that Prospect had decided to ballot its members on strike action.

She added: "We remain committed to continuing constructive discussions to help resolve the dispute and are open to holding further talks with Prospect on a recruitment and retention allowance for air traffic control staff.

"We await the outcome of the ballot."

The Scottish government said that as well as a pay rise, all Hial staff continued to receive "generous annual leave, sick pay and other allowances".

A spokesman said: "In the face of the UK government's continued budget cuts, the Scottish government delivered a distinctive and progressive pay policy for 2018-19 - one which is fair, supports those on lower incomes and protects public sector jobs and services while delivering value for money for the people of Scotland."

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