HIAL are risking strike action

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has slammed HIAL for refusing to listen to communities and staff and pushing on with its plans to centralise Air Traffic Control Services.

By John A. MacInnes
Monday, 23rd November 2020, 9:54 am
MSP claims HIAL are risking strike action if they don't start listening.
MSP claims HIAL are risking strike action if they don't start listening.

In response to HIAL’s determination to force through its plans and its insistence that it is engaging with staff, Prospect Union members within HIAL have voted by 71 per cent to support future strike action over the issue.

Mrs Grant said: “Strike action is always a last resort and in this case HIAL have refused to listen, leaving staff with little option but to consider withdrawing their labour. According to the Union, 83 per cent of staff in Air Traffic Services support the current model as opposed to a centralised version. There are numerous reasons for this preferred option, including commitment and investment to local communities – many of these air traffic controllers and assistants are from the communities they work in, and those that aren’t have chosen to live and invest in them.

“But aside from the social and economic reasons, Air Traffic Controllers are telling me that they have serious concerns about the safety and viability of a centralised system being relied on for such rural and peripheral areas.

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Mrs Grant continued: “It is clear, despite what HIAL insists on telling ministers, that it is failing to listen to staff over their concerns, and it is blindly and stubbornly refusing to accept that this project is an expensive and unnecessary folly which is a betrayal of the communities that HIAL purports to serve.”

“Despite repeated appeals from communities, staff, planning partnerships and local authorities in the affected areas, HIAL is still telling ministers that centralisation is the only option, and it would appear that Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson is only too happy to take them at their word. This amounts to selling out communities in favour of business and an unwillingness to properly investigate the matter for himself.

“I think that HIAL and the SNP are seriously underestimating the support that Air Traffic Control staff will receive from their communities.”

Air Traffic Controllers who are Union members have voted overwhelmingly in support of modernisation, and have also registered their dissatisfaction with the imminent downgrading of Benbecula airport.

A HIAL spokesperson said: “We have and continue to involve air traffic control colleagues, the union and other stakeholders, including the Civil Aviation Authority, at each stage of the ATMS process. To suggest we are not listening is simply incorrect. We continue to be in close and regular contact with Prospect and we remain hopeful industrial action can be avoided.”