The first date in a long line of anticipated disruption for travellers at airports across the Highlands and islands has been announced, with air traffic controllers to stage a strike next month.
The seven Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) operated airports at Inverness, Wick, Kirkwall, Sumburgh, Stornoway, Benbecula and Dundee, are set to be affected, with members of the Prospect union, who voted to implement industrial action last week, set to down tools on Friday, April 26.
Controllers are also to implement action short of a strike on Monday, April 1, with this continuing throughout the summer months until Saturday, August 31.
David Avery, Prospect negotiations officer, said: “Prospect members have agreed to delay any strike action until after the Scottish school holidays have concluded.
“Our members do not want to stop their friends and neighbours visiting their families during the school holidays.
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“I urge HIAL and Scottish Ministers to use the additional time members have given them to bring forward real proposals to resolve the dispute rather than the same offer which has already been rejected twice.”
The union members voted overwhelmingly in favour of implementing strike action last week in order to seek their desired pay increase to bring controllers wages level with other UK airports.
Last year, controllers rejected a 2% pay rise, instead seeking 10%, a rise state-owned HIAL says it cannot match due to its requirement to comply with the Scottish Government’s pay policy.
HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon said: “We are disappointed by the proposed action and the likely impact on the Highlands and Islands. We will meet with Prospect on Friday, March 8, to explore potential solutions.
“We are working closely with our airline operators to minimise the disruption of industrial action and apologise in advance for the inconvenience this may cause.”
Measures are being put in place to ensure cover is in place for emergency incidents during the period of the strike.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is disappointing to see the union announcing strike action, which will clearly impact passengers. We encourage both parties to continue dialogue in an effort to reach an agreement.”
Highlands and Islands regional MSP Rhoda Grant said: “I very much welcome that Prospect’s decision to delay this action until after the school holidays.
“However, this is a wake up call for the Government and HIAL, and the fact that the strike has been delayed until 26th April means that both parties have time to get round the table with the Prospect Union and thrash out a compromise that suits both sides.”
Jamie Halcro Johnston MSP, echoed Mrs Grant’s calls for dialogue, adding: “We need to see real action from HIAL, the union and the Scottish Government to ensure that, if at all possible, agreement can be found and this action is averted.”