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Union and airport operator HIAL agree to support revised air traffic control plans for Highlands and Islands airports


By Calum MacLeod

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HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon.
HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon.

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Union members have agreed to back revised air traffic control measures from Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) which will retain local jobs across the region.

Last month, following a campaign by trade union Prospect members and local communities, the HIAL board agreed a revised strategic direction for its air traffic management strategy (ATMS).

HIAL, which operates and maintains 11 airports in the Highlands, Islands and other parts of Scotland, including Inverness, Dundee and Wick John O'Groats, had initially planned to centralise its air traffic control system at New Century House in Inverness, but the proposals led to objections from Prospect and affected communities over concerns about the relocation of high-skilled jobs from economically vulnerable areas and potential impact on safety.

Following the framework agreed by HIAL and Prospect, working groups have been set up with air traffic control staff to discuss a new way forward for HIAL’s air traffic control strategy.

The HIAL board has agreed on the future strategic direction for the ATMS programme.

Inverness Airport will host a centralised surveillance operation for HIAL's Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Dundee airports, as well as Inverness.
Inverness Airport will host a centralised surveillance operation for HIAL's Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Dundee airports, as well as Inverness.

This would comprise a centralised surveillance operation for Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Inverness, and Dundee airports, based at its existing approach radar facility on the Inverness Airport site.

Air traffic tower services would continue to be provided locally at each of these airports.

HIAL and Prospect have also agreed on a potential review of air traffic services in five years’ time which would take into account the sustainability of the model, staff recruitment, retention and training, and the impact on local communities..

Prospect balloted its members on the acceptance of this revised proposal. The ballot closed today, Monday 21 February, with the majority of HIAL’s air traffic controllers accepting the new direction for the programme.

Inglis Lyon, HIAL’s managing director said: “We are pleased that our colleagues have recognised the level of engagement and the compromise position that HIAL and Prospect have worked hard to achieve. This alternative delivery of the ATMS programme would benefit our teams, our local communities and help futureproof air traffic services for the Highlands and Islands.

“There is much work to do and moving forward we will continue to work closely with our colleagues and seek their input to develop the necessary detail.”

Separate working groups will be established to discuss the future service delivery options for Benbecula and Wick John O’Groats airports.

A new working group will examine the future prospects for Wick John O'Groats Airport.
A new working group will examine the future prospects for Wick John O'Groats Airport.

Prospect has welcomed the ballot result as the conclusion of a successful campaign, describing it as a major win for workers, with high value jobs kept in remote communities and the future of these essential airports safeguarded.

Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect said: “This shows what unions can achieve when working with local communities to safeguard the future of essential local services. Throughout this process, we have engaged constructively with HIAL and are pleased to have reached an agreement that protects these highly-skilled jobs in rural communities and ensures the future of a vital transport network for local people.”


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