Highlands & Islands

Six Hial airports to close during air controllers strike

Sumburgh Airport Image copyright Google
Image caption Sumburgh is one of six airports due to close later this week

Six regional airports are set to close on Thursday during a strike by air traffic controllers.

The workers are in a pay dispute with their employer Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial).

The affected airports are Benbecula, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Sumburgh.

The union Prospect has called for a staff pay rise of at least 10% pointing out that air traffic controllers in the private sector earn much more.

Hial, which is owned by the Scottish government, said it had to follow government pay policy.

It said the controllers' wage demand "greatly exceeds" the policy, adding that the comparison with the private sector was "misleading and unrealistic" due to the different volume of air traffic movements.

Hial said its Wick John O'Groats, Barra, Campbeltown, Islay and Tiree airports will remain open on Thursday.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Dundee is another of the airports due to close on Thursday

The controllers have been working to rule since the beginning of April.

Prospect agreed to suspend a strike planned for 26 April to allow for talks.

But the discussions, facilitated by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), broke down earlier this month and a strike date was set for Thursday.

Hial managing director Inglis Lyon said: "We sincerely regret this escalation of the pay dispute by Prospect members and apologise for the inconvenience that this has caused our customers.

"We continue to work closely with our airlines to mitigate the effects of strike action and I wish to thank them and all our staff who have worked extremely hard to implement contingency measures."

Prospect said the airports company should stop "antagonising" staff and focus on persuading the Scottish government to help resolve the dispute.

Negotiator David Avery said the union and staff wanted the row to to be resolved in a "satisfactory manner".

The Scottish government said it was "disappointed" strike action was set to take place and that it would "clearly impact" on passengers.

A spokesman said that in the face of UK government budget cuts, it had delivered a "distinctive and progressive" pay policy.

He said: "We continue to encourage both Prospect and Hial to return to discussions around a retention allowance for air traffic controllers and to work towards a resolution to the pay dispute."

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