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Air traffic controllers announce strike

Air traffic controllers working at airports across the Highlands and Islands are to stage a one day strike at the end of July.

Prospect union announced this morning, that its members are to strike on July 29 over plans by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd. (HIAL) to centralise air traffic control in Inverness.

The one-day strike marks an escalation in the industrial action which has been ongoing since January.

Prospect members in HIAL voted to continue industrial action, including the option for a strike, in June having initially voted for the action at the end of last year. They claim they are taking the action because HIAL is pressing ahead with plans to close air traffic towers in the highlands and islands, centralising services in Inverness. This primary concern by those opposing the plans is that they would remove high value jobs from remote communities.

David Avery, Prospect negotiator, said: “Our members have been forced into this escalation of industrial action to protect the communities they serve. HIAL’s plan will remove high value skilled jobs from economies that can ill-afford to lose them, having a substantial negative impact on those communities.

“The Scottish Government has the power to step in on this debate but the minster hasn’t even taken the time to meet the local councils involved, or indeed is own MSPs, to discuss the impact of the remote towers project. We have since had the bizarre situation where UK minister Michael Gove discussed the matter with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar while the minister refuses.

“Prospect members are not averse to change but it has to be done in a way that maintains jobs and skills in remote communities. HIAL needs to halt these plans now  so our members can get on with their jobs.”

Responding to the announcement of a strike, Inglis Lyon, HIAL’s managing director, said: “We are extremely disappointed to have received this formal notice without any prior intimation from Prospect.

 “This action will inflict additional disruption and inconvenience on passengers at such a crucial time for the communities of the Highlands and Islands. It will also have an impact on the aviation sector which serves them and which is seeking to get back on its feet following the worst of the pandemic.

 “We will work closely with our airline partners to keep disruption to a minimum and apologise for the undoubted inconvenience this action will cause.

 “Given the positive response from Prospect to the policies relating to the modernisation project this is bitterly disappointing.  We ask that Prospect work with HIAL on completing the policy work before considering strike action and to meet with HIAL in the interim to agree how this might happen.”