Air traffic controllers are to escalate their industrial action in opposition to plans to centralise the service across the north.
Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (Hial), which operates 11 airports across the region, is seeking to move control operations to a remote centre in Inverness.
A report released last week, and commissioned by Hial themselves, claims 48 jobs will be axed, many in the island communities – costing £2.2 million in lost salaries to the economy.
The Prospect union has notified Hial that workers in air traffic control will step-up their action in opposition to the plans.
This includes controllers working to rosters, an overtime ban, and a refusal of extensions except for search and rescue, emergency and medical flights.
David Avery, Prospect negotiator, said: “Prospect has presented a raft of evidence against remote towers, including an independent report into its viability – and Hial’s own impact assessment published recently shows the negative impact it will have on communities – but Hial are pressing on regardless.
“This is the wrong plan and at a time when aviation is being damaged by the pandemic there are better things to spend taxpayers’ money on.
“Hial claim the current system is inflexible and unsustainable. This is simply not the case.
“Staff come in early and stay late to accommodate aircraft to ensure their local communities remain connected.
“Where there have been staffing problems in the past, the staff have gone above and beyond to ensure airports remain open.
“It is not too late for Hial and the Scottish Government to think again, cancel this harmful project and come up with an acceptable way to modernise services.”
HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon said: “Further industrial action by Prospect will have significant impact on local communities and individuals who rely on HIAL’s airports. This action is unwarranted and at this time could put existing routes under unsustainable pressure, just as the country is emerging from lockdown.
“We would not be undertaking this hugely complex project unless we believed it was absolutely necessary to do so.
“Prospect has repeatedly failed to provide a credible alternative.
“The aviation industry will take years to recover from the effects of COVID 19 and any disruption to scheduled services as a result of this action will put us further behind at a time when we should be looking forward. Notwithstanding that HIAL operates a no redundancy policy.”