HIAL air traffic controllers set to strike over centralisation plans

The movement has been set up to oppose the company’s programme to centralise services in Inverness  

Air traffic controllers based at Lewis, Orkney and Shetland airports, are expected to strike over plans to centralise services.  

The operator, Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) is planning to implement new technology which would allow these operations to be run from a facility in Inverness.  

It has been suggested that if this move goes ahead, high value jobs could be removed from remote communities, which opponents say will heavily impact local economies if employees are forced to relocate.  

Inverness Airport
Photo Geograph/Bill Boaden

To oppose this proposition, the Prospect union - the trade body that represents air traffic control workers at the sites – has organised a one-day strike to take place on July 29.  

David Avery, Prospect negotiator, believes the HIAL employees have been “forced into this escalation of industrial action to protect the communities they serve”, as these deliberations have been ongoing since January.  

According to the union, Scottish ministers have refused to address the communities involved regarding the impact of this project. 

Avery continues: “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 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 [Western Isles Council] 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.” 

Inglis Lyon, HIAL’s managing director, said the company is “extremely disappointed” by the plans to strike.  

He continued: “This action will inflict additional disruption and inconvenience on passengers at such a crucial time for the communities of the Highlands and Islands. It will also have an impact on the aviation sector which serves them and which is seeking to get back on its feet following the worst of the pandemic. 

“Given the positive response from Prospect to the policies relating to the modernisation project this is bitterly disappointing. We ask that Prospect work with HIAL on completing the policy work before considering strike action and to meet with HIAL in the interim to agree how this might happen.”