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Highland air traffic control jobs retained as Prospect members endorse Hial proposals

The air control tower in Stornoway in the Western Isles will be retained locally. Picture by Sandy McCook.
The air control tower in Stornoway in the Western Isles will be retained locally. Picture by Sandy McCook.

A long-running dispute over Highlands and island jobs has been been concluded with no loss of local employment.

Prospect union members at Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial) have voted to accept revised plans that retain jobs locally at on-site air traffic control towers.

Hial had previously argued for a “remote towers” project that would have centralised air traffic operations to Inverness.

In January, after a long-running campaign by Prospect members and local communities, the Hial board agreed a revised strategic direction.

A number of strikes had taken place across the region – bringing air travel to a halt in some island communities.

Hial has since removed proposals to relocate air traffic control jobs to the Highland capital.

Successful campaign by union

Today, Prospect said the ballot result is the conclusion of a successful campaign that represents a major win for workers.

It said high value jobs had been kept in remote communities and the future of these essential airports were safeguarded.

Inverness Airport.

Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect, said: “This shows what unions can achieve when working with local communities to safeguard the future of essential local services.

“Throughout this process, we have engaged constructively with Hial and are pleased to have reached an agreement that protects these highly-skilled jobs in rural communities and ensures the future of a vital transport network for local people.”

Strategic direction of Hial changed in January

The Hial board met on January 24 agreeing the future strategic direction for the air traffic management strategy (ATMS).

The new strategy will mean a centralised surveillance operation for Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Inverness, and Dundee airports.

It will be based at its existing approach radar facility on the Inverness airport site.

Air traffic tower services will continue to be provided locally at each of these airports.

The scope for a review of air traffic services in five years’ time was agreed between Hial and Prospect.

‘Engagement and compromise’

Hial managing director Inglis Lyon.

Inglis Lyon, Hial’s managing director said: “We are pleased that our colleagues have recognised the level of engagement and the compromise position that Hial and Prospect have worked hard to achieve.

“This alternative delivery of the ATMS programme would benefit our teams, our local communities and help futureproof air traffic services for the Highlands and islands.

“There is much work to do and moving forward we will continue to work closely with our colleagues and seek their input to develop the necessary detail.”

Separate working groups will be established to discuss the future service delivery options for Benbecula and Wick John O’Groats airports.

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