Page last updated at 14:16 GMT, Monday, 23 June 2008 15:16 UK

No intervention in fire strikes

Aircraft at Barra
Barra's beach airfield is one of the sites affected by action

The Scottish Government said it would not intervene in a pay dispute between fire and rescue staff and the operator of nine state-owned airports.

It said the row was a matter for union Unite and Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL).

About 2,000 passengers have had their travel disrupted by 24-hour industrial action by firefighters.

Barra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Islay, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Tiree and Wick airports have been closed.

Ahead of the strikes, Unite had said the issue of awarding its members more than a 2% rise was one for the government to sort out.

However, the Scottish Government said it was a matter for HIAL and the union and urged the parties to come to a "swift resolution".


Flights across the north of Scotland have been affected

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson, who was on a visit to Inverness, said HIAL told the union it was willing to be flexible.

He said: "They have offered to discuss a range of ways forward.

"I hope we will see the union, workers and the company sit down and take these issues forward because this is an issue that should be settled and settled soon."

Inverness Airport is open, but flights to Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles are being affected.

HIAL said it could not offer any more than the 2% offered because that was the limit for public sector pay rises.

HIAL operates 11 airports, most in the north and west of Scotland
Inverness is the main hub
Flights from Inverness to the islands were disrupted, but services to Manchester, London Gatwick and Dublin continued as normal

Spokesman Nat Anderson said it was disappointing the action was going ahead despite management's attempts to work with the union to resolve the issue.

He said: "We were working with them earlier this year to achieve greater flexibility on pay rewards.

"That was by looking at internal efficiency savings we could make and then we would have put a business case forward to Scottish ministers to seek approval for this."

Mr Anderson added: "That work was ongoing, but at this stage Unite walked away."

Unite said HIAL bosses had told the union it needed permission from the government to offer more money.

Jimmy Farrelly, Unite senior officer, said the union and its members had agreed to look with HIAL at what efficiencies could be made.

But he said: "The only aspect of efficiency which would have rewarded the workers with a 1% increase was on the provision that three of the airports did additional security with the firefighting duties.

"That was clearly a non runner."

Another day of industrial action has been proposed for 4 July.

Strikes were not taking place at Inverness or Dundee, which is operated by HIAL through a subsidiary company.

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