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Strike action suspended at Wick John O'Groats Airport

By Gordon Calder

A 24-hour strike which was due to take place at Wick John O'Groats Airport later this month has been been suspended to allow talks to continue between unions and management.

Air traffic controllers planned to walk out on April 26 along with colleagues at six other airports in the Highlands and Islands in a dispute over pay.

But they have put their plans on hold so further discussions between the Prospect union, which represents the air traffic controllers, and Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (Hial) can take place.

Air traffic controllers in dispute over pay
Air traffic controllers in dispute over pay

The breakthrough came after a meeting with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) in Glasgow on Tuesday

Afterwards, the union and Hial issued a joint statement. It said: "Discussions have been productive and the company has put forward proposals and identified potential funding sources which need further work to develop. Both sides have agreed to meet again on April 24 and May 3.

"Prospect agreed to suspend the strike action on the April 26 to allow discussions to continue. Action short of a strike – including a work-to-rule – will continue."

Air traffic controllers at Wick John O'Groats, Kirkwall, Sumburgh, Stornoway, Inverness, Benbecula and Dundee are pressing for a double-digit rise – believed to be 10 per cent – in their wages or a long-term commitment to above inflation pay awards.

Hial management said the pay dispute arose despite increases of between two and three per cent awarded to staff as part of the 2018/19 pay settlement.

Average salaries for air traffic control officers at Inverness are £73,000. At other Hial airports they are £58,000. Inverness controllers require additional ratings on their licence (Radar) that attract a higher salary.

However, Prospect stressed negotiations have been going on for more than a year and said industrial action is "always a last resort".

The union said it wants a fair wage for "a demanding and skilled job" and said if the company does not pay competitive salaries it risks staff going to other airports which pay more.

Hial runs a total of 11 airports on behalf of the Scottish Government.

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