Lifeline flights could be disrupted as airport staff consider strike

Highlands and Islands Airports Limited has been notified of a strike ballot.

Lifeline Highland and Island flights could be disrupted as airport staff balloted for strike action iStock

Flights connecting Scottish islands and the mainland could face disruption, with airport staff being balloted for strike action.

It comes after members of Unite the union rejected a 5% pay offer made by employer Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL).

The company operates 11 airports across Scotland, serving a number of remote communities.

They are; Barra Airport, Benbecula Airport, Campbeltown Airport, Dundee Airport, Inverness Airport, Islay Airport, Kirkwall Airport, Stornoway Airport, Sumburgh Airport, Tiree Airport and Wick John O’Groats Airport.

HIAL has stated that the offer made was “within our existing finances”, and that it “maximised” the parameters of the Scottish Government pay offer.

It included a 5% basic pay award to all staff earning less than £80,000, a 4% basic pay award to all staff earning more than £80,000, and a 5% increase to fixed allowances not automatically updated by the 5% increase in basic pay.

Members of Unite have advised the firm that they view the pay offer as “insulting” and below what they are worth.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham urged HIAL to make a “realistic” pay offer to avoid a full industrial dispute.

“These workers provide a lifeline, connecting the Highlands and Islands of Scotland,” she said.

“The work they do is vital in maintaining these communities. They should therefore expect and deserve a pay increase that reflects that.

“The cost of working on communities like this is higher than in many of our urban centres and the cost of living crisis is making this unaffordable.

“HIAL bosses must make a realistic pay offer to avoid escalating this into a full industrial dispute.”

Shauna Wright, Unite regional officer, added that the union remains open to dialogue in seeking a solution.

She said: “Our members provide a crucial role for the airport from firefighting and security to customer service, this pay award affects all our members across all grades and does nothing for the retention and the recruitment of staff on islands.

“Unite remain open to dialogue to seek a solution, however all members deserve more and they deserve a pay that’s in line with the cost of living.”

Inglis Lyon, HIAL’s managing director, said the company would remain in dialogue with unions in attempting to reach a solution.

“Following an extensive exercise on operational efficiencies and the generation of additional income through various measures, we presented an enhanced offer to the trade unions,” said Lyon.

“The offer was affordable from within our existing finances and maximised the parameters of the Scottish Government pay policy, and this was acknowledged by the trade unions.

“Meetings were held on Friday, October 28 with the trade unions to explore further measures that the company may be able to implement to enhance the offer, but these fell short of union expectations.

“However, we will remain in dialogue with union colleagues to try to reach a solution.”

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