Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has stepped in to defend air traffic controllers after it was announced that more strike action would take place on Wednesday 12th June and in light of recent criticisms in the media.
Mrs Grant said: “Air traffic controllers are being left without a voice, drowned out by comment from a flight operator and airport management.
“I met with union representatives of Prospect on the 29th May in Parliament and I discovered that HIAL air traffic controllers in Inverness are paid 12% less than those in Aberdeen, 33% less than those in Edinburgh and 100% less than those in Heathrow.
“The pay gap is even wider for air traffic controllers working on the islands. How is this fair when they have the exact same training as their counterparts elsewhere?
“Members of Prospect are being made to look like their request is unreasonable when, in fact, if the rates of inflation are compared to the air traffic controllers’ pay increases over the last 10 years, the requested pay increase would bring their wages in line with inflation.
“I don’t think this is an unreasonable request especially as their jobs are due to disappear, or they will be forced to move. I can understand completely why they are no longer willing to settle for lower pay.
“The Scottish Government should work out how to resolve this, whether that be paying air traffic controllers more or ending the plans to centralise services.”
With the dispute between air traffic controllers and HIAL on-going, Mrs Grant says that staff are coming under increased stress without the added stress of political and commercial pressure and criticism in the media.
Members of the Prospect union are asking for their pay to be increased in line with their counterparts elsewhere in the country.
In the background are HIAL’s plans for its seven airports to have their air traffic controlled remotely from a new digital tower based in Inverness.
The seven airports affected are Stornoway, Benbecula, Sumburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Wick John O’Groats and Kirkwall.
“In the past there was an understanding that air traffic controllers knew they could earn more elsewhere but were willing to relinquish that in return for having secure, highly qualified jobs at home,” said Mrs Grant.
“However, with the plans to centralise air traffic control from the Highlands and Islands to Inverness, Prospect have had enough and want their pay to reflect what others are paid in the country.
“HIAL air traffic controllers are fed up being told that there is no money available for their pay increase when millions of pounds are being spent on planning to make air traffic controlled remotely from Inverness.”