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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 July 2007, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Airports firm warns of disruption
Inverness Airport
HIAL said airports like Inverness would not be able to operate
Air passengers in the Highlands and Islands can expect a summer of disruption, according to the company that runs the region's airports.

Talks to avert a strike by firefighters failed on Wednesday.

Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) said its 10 airports could not operate without fire cover. The first day of action is planned for 30 July.

Firefighters are angry at an offer of a 2% pay rise. HIAL said it had been accepted by more than half its staff.

The wider impact of this action on the Highland economy should be a key consideration for all concerned
Danny Alexander MP

The T&G Scotland section of the Unite union said it had made it clear that the basic pay figures of 19,500 for a firefighter and 22,000 for a leading firefighter were the correct figures in the negotiations, rather than the average earnings quoted by HIAL.

HIAL said because as it was government-owned, it was subject to a UK-wide cap on public sector wages and was limited to a 2% pay increase for 2006/07.

Donald Munro, regional industrial organiser, said: "We were clear that the management here recognised the value and contribution of the firefighters but their hands are tied by what Westminster has decreed."

Unite represents 131 firefighters including the leading firefighters at Barra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Inverness, Islay, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Tiree and Wick.

STRIKE STATISTICS
A series of 24-hour strikes will start at 0001 BST on 30 July
Union leaders have warned that strikes will be staged every subsequent Monday until a resolution is found
HIAL's 10 airports are at Sumburgh, Kirkwall, Wick, Stornoway, Inverness, Benbecula, Barra, Tiree, Islay and Campbeltown

Representatives from those sites were linked into Wednesday's discussions.

HIAL spokesman, Nat Anderson, said the members' decision to strike was disappointing.

He said: "The union knew that 2% was the maximum offer we could make this year and that was the offer on the table.

"More than half the company staff have accepted that offer and we are disappointed that they haven't been able to work with us on next year and just accepted this year's offer."

Inverness MP Danny Alexander said the strike would damage the local economy at the height of the tourist season.

He said: "I am surprised that the offer to go to Acas was refused, given that the service was established precisely for these sort of circumstances."

Mr Alexander added: "I would appeal to the union to be willing to try the Acas route before going on strike. The wider impact of this action on the Highland economy should be a key consideration for all concerned."


SEE ALSO
Strikes to go ahead at airports
18 Jul 07 |  Highlands and Islands
Strike proposed at north airports
16 Jul 07 |  Highlands and Islands
'Potential' for flights to Poland
16 Jul 07 |  Highlands and Islands
New routes offered from airport
27 Apr 07 |  Tayside and Central

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