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Airport workers in Highlands and islands back strike action in pay dispute

Workers at Highlands and Islands Airports Limited have backed strike action in a dispute over pay (David Cheskin/PA)
Workers at Highlands and Islands Airports Limited have backed strike action in a dispute over pay (David Cheskin/PA)

Travel across Scotland’s Highland and island communities could be disrupted if airport staff take strike action.

Members of the Unite union working at Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (Hial) have voted by 73.5% in favour of walkouts in a dispute over pay.

The same ballot also saw 92.8% of workers back taking action short of a strike as they fight for improved wages.

Unite has said it will confirm dates for industrial action at the 11 airports next week.

That could result in disruption for travellers at Barra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Dundee, Inverness, Islay, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Tiree and Wick John O’Groats airports over the busy festive period – with the prospect of fire and rescue staff along with security and administration workers taking part in any action.

Barra Airport
Barra Airport is among those involved in the action (PA)

The workforce has already rejected the offer of a 5% pay rise, and Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Airport workers across Highland and island communities simply can’t afford to live on their current wages.

“To then present them with what amounts to a significant pay cut at a time of rocketing living costs leaves them with no other course of action but to take a stand.

“The Scottish Government and Hial have to act to deliver on pay or face a rural workforce crisis.

“Unite’s members working across these 11 airports have emphatically backed industrial action and they will have their union’s full support in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.

“We urgently need Hial and the Scottish Government to get round the table. It’s an imperative that the relevant parties work together to save rural communities and retain jobs in the Highlands and islands.

“With the necessary political will, we believe that our members’ pay, terms, and conditions across Hial airports can be improved.”

An Hial spokesman said: “Unite’s media statement is unhelpful as it does not explain what industrial action will take place, or the dates it will commence. This makes it difficult for airlines and their customers to plan, creating unnecessary anxiety for passengers and communities over the festive period.

“We recognise the challenges our colleagues face due to inflationary pressures and the cost-of-living crisis. Nonetheless, we are disappointed that they have voted for industrial action. The enhanced offer we presented maximised the flexibility within the Scottish Government’s pay policy.

“Hial will do all it can to minimise any disruption caused by industrial action over the festive period and we urge Unite to continue to engage in constructive dialogue and work with us to find a resolution.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We absolutely respect the democratic right of union members to take industrial action – though it is disappointing that passengers face the prospect of disruption ahead of the festive period.

“We encourage Hial and Unite to continue to engage in positive dialogue in order to resolve this dispute.”