Inverness Airport will be closed tomorrow (Sunday July 21st), cutting off the Highland capital from its crucial air links across Scotland, England, Ireland and the rest of Europe.
This is part of intensifying industrial action by air traffic controllers, which will see Stornoway and Benbecula airports closed on Tuesday.
HIAL Managing Director Inglis Lyon has apologised for the disruption this further round of strike action will cause and urged the Prospect union to get back round the table and help deliver a solution to its long-running pay dispute.
Meanwhile Prospect continues to blame Scottish Government policy for the impasse. They say: "The action started (on April 1st) on the anniversary of an imposed 2% pay award in line with Scottish Ministerial pay policy. The offer was a further real term pay cut for controllers whose pay has been suppressed for more than a decade by public sector pay restraint.
"Prospect research, based on data from pay negotiations with other employers, shows that HIAL has fallen more than 10% behind other employers within the sector. They already struggle to attract and retain controllers with staff shortages meaning Stornoway airport closing during the day to allow controllers to take a break. The announcement of the remote towers centre in Inverness has also been an influencing factor for controllers looking for work elsewhere.
"A proposal was agreed between Prospect and HIAL over Christmas which would have resolved the dispute, increasing controller pay above inflation over three years was rejected out of hand by Scottish Ministers. Further talks at ACAS delivered no meaningful progress.
"This summer, more than a year into the dispute, HIAL tabled a formal offer for the first time in the form of a recruitment and retention allowance. This has been rejected by comprehensively by members in a ballot for failing to address the underlying pay problem.
"Prospect is continuing to engage with the company to try and get a resolution to the dispute but it will require significant movement from the company."
Mr Lyon said HIAL is fully prepared for three days of industrial action, which will see six of its airports closed due to strike action by air traffic controllers. The strikes were called following the rejection of HIAL’s latest offer on July 4. The offer rejected by Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) comprised a retention allowance that would have seen ATCOs benefit from an additional £10,000 over a five-year period.
“We deeply regret the inconvenience and upset to hundreds of passengers affected by the strike action. We wish to find a resolution to this dispute as soon as possible and would urge Prospect to sit down with us once again to find some common ground on which we can arrive at a negotiated settlement.
“Our position has been consistent throughout. We can only deliver an affordable settlement within the terms of Public Sector Pay Policy. So far Prospect has continued to ask for a pay increase far in excess of what we are able to afford and that unfortunately remains the situation.
“We remain committed to resolving the dispute. Our latest offer of a retention allowance of £10,000 over a five year period remains on the table and will continue to explore potential solutions within our affordability.”
“The continued industrial action is having a significant impact on our passengers, communities and the airlines operating from our airports. We would encourage Prospect to revisit the offer and bring this dispute to an end.”
The following airports will be closed to air traffic:
- Sunday 21 July 2019: Inverness Airport
- Monday 22 July 2019: Sumburgh Airport, Kirkwall Airport
- Tuesday 23 July 2019: Stornoway Airport, Benbecula Airport, Dundee Airport