Six airports have been closed to all but emergency flights as air traffic controllers strike over plans to introduce remote airport control towers.
The Prospect union said Thursday’s walkout marks an escalation in the industrial action which has been going on since January.
Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) said that Benbecula, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Sumburgh airports would be closed to all but emergency flights from 12.01am on January 29 for 24 hours due to strike action.
HIAL is planning to centralise operations in Inverness and introduce remote integrated air traffic control services for five airports – Inverness, Dundee, Stornoway, Kirkwall and Sumburgh.
Managing director Inglis Lyon said: “We apologise for the inconvenience this day of strike action will cause.
“The disruption will impact our passengers, airline partners and the communities we serve at a crucial time in the recovery from the effects of the Covid pandemic.
“It is extremely disappointing that strike action is going ahead despite months of work with Prospect to agree a number of policies to support our colleagues’ transition to our Air Traffic Management programme.
“We are still in talks with the union on a commuting policy and appeal to Prospect to conclude those discussions before considering any further escalation of industrial action.”
The industrial action has so far included staff working to rosters, a ban on overtime, refusing shift extensions – except for search and rescue, emergency and medical flights – and refusing to train new controllers.
Prospect negotiator David Avery said: “Prospect members have been forced into strike action to protect jobs in the communities they serve.
“HIAL must halt its plan which will remove high-value, skilled jobs from economies that can ill-afford to lose them, having a substantial negative impact on those communities.
“Prospect members are not averse to change but it has to be done in a way that maintains jobs and skills in remote communities.”
The Scottish Government has said the option chosen by HIAL in 2018 will “improve resilience, safety and reliability of services”.
A spokesman said: “It remains the case that no alternative has been proposed that addresses the issues that the Air Traffic Management Strategy (ATMS) programme aims to resolve.
“HIAL continues to engage with its staff, unions, airline customers and other interested parties as the programme is implemented.”