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Stornoway and Benbecula airports are being hit by strike action on Thursday 29 July 2021.

The trade union Prospect today (Thursday July 15) served notice of a one-day air-traffic controllers stoppage. 

This is part of the ever-growing battle between Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd, the trade unions and local communities about plans to centralise air-traffic control in Inverness.  

In a statement to its members, Prospect said: "This is not a decision that was undertaken lightly and followed a discussion with the ATS reps group considering the views of members from across the company.

"Members remain frustrated and angry with the strategic direction of the project and HIAL’s continued insistence that there are no alternatives when local deployment clearly and should be the preferred option."

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar SNP Group say they are fully supportive of the one day strike.  Group leader, Cllr Gordon Murray stated today (Friday July 16) : "The SNP Group at the Comhairle are fully behind the industrial action planned on 29th July by Prospect Union. We believe that our communities should be united with the staff who are most affected by this decision to centralise to Inverness. This is more than just a strike and should be seen as a community demonstration against a decision that will have a huge economic impact on our islands stripping half a million of wages out of our communities annually.  I urge everyone to support these workers on 29th July as they fight not only the future of air traffic control in our islands but for the future of our communities." 
Prospect said it had hoped that following the election a new transport minister would bring a new perspective. But they said the new minister Mr Graeme Dey has thus far declined to meet with MSP and councillors from constituencies hit by the project and he has also failed to respond to requests for a meeting from staff working in Dundee living in his own constituency.

The action is being taken to once again highlight the campaign and to show to the company and ministers that members are prepared to stand up and defend their communities.

"We are seeking that both HIAL and Mr Dey engage in a serious discussion with employees and local communities about addressing the fundamental direction of the project rather than seeking to offer insufficient mitigations against a fundamentally flawed idea."

As with previous strikes, the union will be asking members to strike from 00:01 for 24 hours. In the event of a medical emergency, we would ask member to attend the tower and provide a service as required.

All the following grades have been called out – Senior Air Traffic Controllers; Deputy Senior Air Traffic Controllers; Air Traffic Controllers; Trainee/Student Air Traffic Controllers; and Air Traffic Service Assistants. Other airports being hit include: Dundee; Inverness Airport; Wick; Kirkwall Airport; and Sumburgh.

Reacting to the news, Inglis Lyon, HIAL’s managing director, said: We are extremely disappointed to have received this formal notice without any prior intimation from Prospect.

“This action will inflict additional disruption and inconvenience on passengers at such a crucial time for the communities of the Highlands and Islands. It will also have an impact on the aviation sector which serves them and which is seeking to get back on its feet following the worst of the pandemic.

“We will work closely with our airline partners to keep disruption to a minimum and apologise for the undoubted inconvenience this action will cause.

“Given the positive response from Prospect to the policies relating to the modernisation project this is bitterly disappointing.  We ask that Prospect work with HIAL on completing the policy work before considering strike action and to meet with HIAL in the interim to agree how this might happen.”

SNP Group comments added after the original article was published.