Reaction to HIAL Air Traffic Controllers Strike Action

Prospect members working in air traffic control for Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) are to stage a one day strike on 29 July over plans to centralise air traffic control in Inverness.

Commenting on the news Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick SNP, has urged both sides to get back round the negotiating table. She said:

“It is never easy to see strike action taking place, particularly when it has such a direct impact on islands flight passengers. However, I understand the concerns of union members.

“I urge both sides to get back round the table for talks to develop a solution that best addresses the aspirations of both union members and HIAL management.”

The one day strike marks an escalation in the industrial action which has been ongoing since January. HIAL is wholly owned by Scottish Government Ministers.

Damning Impact Assessment: ‘significant uncertainties’ in HIAL Remote Towers Project

Orkney Constituency MSP, Liam McArthur LibDem, has described the strike action as bad news. He said:

“This is bad news given the inevitable disruption any strike action will have on our lifeline air services. These are services that have already been badly affected by the pandemic, so this is the last thing that is needed.

“However, all of this could have been avoided had HIAL and Scottish Ministers listened to the growing concerns over their plans to centralise air traffic services in Inverness. These concerns have been raised by staff and local communities and are reflected in HIAL’s own island impact assessment. Despite this, HIAL and this SNP government appear intent on ploughing on regardless.

“It is time to think again and bring forward proposals for modernising air traffic services that do not strip jobs and revenue out of our islands.”

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 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 would remove high value jobs from remote communities, impacting strongly on those economies, and result in forced redundancies as people are unwilling to relocate from the communities they love and serve, to Inverness.

Ministers in the Scottish Government have refused to even meet those communities involved to discuss the impact this project would have on them.

HIAL have described the action as extremely disappointing. A statement from the company said:

“It is extremely disappointing to have received this formal notice without any prior intimation or discussion from Prospect.  

“The introduction of strike action at such a crucial time for the aviation section, which is seeking to get back on its feet following the worst of the pandemic, will severely impact our airline partners, our passengers and the communities we serve. 

“We will work closely with our airlines and partner agencies to try and keep disruption to a minimum and apologise for the undoubted inconvenience this action will cause”.

The following airports will be closed to all but emergency flights on 29 July 2021:  Benbecula, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Sumburgh.

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.”

Control tower and apron, Benbecula Airport by David Martin

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