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Workers at island airports are to be balloted on industrial action over plans to centralise air traffic control.
Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) proposes to shift its air traffic control services to Inverness by using ‘remote towers’ but there are fears it would cost jobs.
Prospect trade union has stressed that any industrial action taken by its members will have no effect on emergency services and if action is taken it will be after the Christmas holiday period.
Less busy airports at Tiree, Islay and Barra would not be affected because they are not part of the ‘Remote Towers’ project but Stornoway would.
Isles MP Angus MacNeil is backing Prospect’s calls to protect jobs and wants the Scottish Government to step in.
‘This is an inevitable consequence of HIAL’s high handed approach to people’s jobs and livelihoods and damaging the island economy by taking critical, well paid jobs out of the area. It is time now for the Scottish Government to step in.
‘HIAL’s answers have not been good enough. Air Traffic Control staff and the public deserve better. The Transport Minister needs to get involved.’
HIAL operates and manages 11 airports including Islay, Tiree, Barra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh and Wick.
In January this year, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron supported calls for a debate in the Scottish Parliament on the plans to centralise air traffic control in the region.
Responding to news of a ballot, HIAL said it was was made aware of the outcome of a survey carried out by Prospect with its air traffic colleagues and was ‘extremely disappointed’ that industrial action was being considered.
HIAL categorically refutes Prospect’s claims of 50 staff redundancies resulting from the implementation of the programme saying the company has been clear from the start that it has a no compulsory redundancy policy and will explore all options with its colleagues.
HIAL’s Managing Director Inglis Lyon said: ‘We wish to avoid industrial action and the potentially long term damaging implications for all concerned and we have written to Prospect to propose engaging the services of an external facilitator to help resolve matters. We await a response from Prospect, but hope that we can work together to overcome the issues.’
Inglis Lyon, managing director, Highlands and Islands Airports Limited wants to avoid industrial action but is waiting to hear back from Prospect trade union.
Image by: Malcolm McCurrach