Stop antagonising staff and focus on persuading government, union warns HIAL chief


Stop antagonising staff and focus on persuading government, union warns HIAL chief

Air traffic controllers' union Prospect has warned Inglis Lyon, chief executive of Highlands and Islands Airport Ltd to stop ‘antagonising’ staff with misleading claims and focus on persuading the Scottish Government to help resolve the dispute.

The warning comes in an open letter following on from an email Mr Lyon sent to HIAL staff on Monday which contains a number of inaccurate claims about Prospect’s position in the pay dispute.

However the union does welcome the acknowledgement from Mr Lyon in his email that the dispute is likely to continue unless “HIAL is afforded flexibility around the implementation of the Scottish Government’s public pay policy” by Scottish Government ministers.

Prospect negotiator David Avery said: “It is extremely disappointing that Inglis Lyon is continuing to antagonise staff by presenting a deliberately misleading account of the position of their union in this dispute.

“We want this dispute to be resolved in a satisfactory manner, and this kind of communication to staff is not helpful as part of that process.

“It is welcome that HIAL have acknowledged that the Scottish Government is the major obstacle to progress here. Instead of further winding up staff, HIAL should be focusing on persuading Scottish Government Ministers to help them resolve this dispute by granting them the flexibility to negotiate an acceptable pay deal”.


Open letter to Inglis Lyon, 21 May 2019

Dear Inglis,

The aim of both the employer and the union in an industrial dispute should be to find a solution which aims to avoid the need for industrial action. This can only be resolved by finding a solution which is acceptable to all parties. I have previously requested that in the interest of this objective you desist from antagonising your staff by continuing to present the union’s negotiating position in a manner which you know to be false. Unfortunately you have continued to do so in your briefing to staff on Friday.

Therefore I would like to clarify a few points from your email.

While we are aware of the Scottish Government’s pay policy, we do not accept it. It is not collectively bargained at a ministerial level and discussions are left for employers and their unions. Further I note that other organisations covered by this policy have gone significantly further than HIAL while covered by the same policy. HIAL have chosen not to show that flexibility in 2018 and in previous years.

I welcome your acknowledgement that the quickest route to resolving this dispute would be for HIAL to be granted greater flexibility around this pay policy. Given this admission, it is disappointing that you continue to attempt to attribute blame for the forthcoming industrial action solely on Prospect and our members rather than the Scottish Government.

The pay offer was not accepted by air traffic controllers. It was formally rejected at ballot on the offer by 94% of air traffic members.

While HIAL implemented the award it was on the clear understanding that the offer was not accepted by air traffic controllers. I set this out in writing to you when Prospect responded to the pay offer. If you needed further confirmation the offer was rejected then the results of the indicative (97% rejection) and statutory ballots (90% rejection) should have made this clear. This is not a rejection by a small majority of “troublemakers” these are near unanimous rejections on high turnouts.

With regards recruitment and retention challenges you yourself have acknowledged this as part of the company’s justification for proceeding with the remote towers project:

“The sustainability of the current service provision is being called into question and can no longer rely on short-term solutions that fail to address underlying structural issues. The key issues include:

• retention and recruitment challenges across many of the airports in the HIAL portfolio;”

You are well aware of the impact on the business of the current and longstanding vacancies at various units which have led to airports needing to close to allow breaks. While you may have been oversubscribed with applicants for your latest abinto recruitment as you are aware the vast majority were unsuitable and a much smaller number progressed to college. The exercise to attract currently valid controllers was undersubscribed and salary was one of the factors for a number of offers being turned down.

It is clear that we disagree about the comparable airports. Prospect believes that the comparison with Scotland’s other airports is absolutely valid as HIAL are recruiting from the same market place and it is completely logical to consider the companies your staff look at when considering alternate work. We are not seeking to match salaries in London but the comparison is worth including to demonstrate just how far behind the market you have fallen.

The company disagreed with Prospect evidence on salaries and sought to compare consolidated pay rates with basic salaries at other companies not inclusive of shift pay. This is why we were unable to agree this section on the joint business case. It is misleading to say we agreed this section on the case.

We have consistently shown we are prepared to engage with the company and explore proposals, we have already delayed industrial action to allow this. As part of the negotiation we would of course consider our claim against any offer made and we did so as part of the joint case which was submitted to government before Christmas.

We remain committed to resolving this dispute but it requires that the company engages with the fundamental issue which is below inflation increases to staff pay over a protracted period of time. Thus far you have failed to do so.

Yours sincerely,

David Avery