By RYAN TAYLOR
HUNDREDS of air passengers booked on to scheduled flights were left in the lurch when workers at Sumburgh Airport went on strike on Monday.
The skies above the airport fell silent when members of the public services union, Unite, working at HIAL’s airports as fire fighters and engineers, staged their first 24 hour strike of the summer.
The move followed a collapse in pay talks aimed at securing a two per cent pay increase.
Around 2,000 passengers across HIAL’s airport network had their travel plans disrupted, of which roughly 500 were flying to or from Shetland.
Unite’s members say their gripe is not with HIAL, but with the Scottish government.
The union’s regional manager, Donald Munro, said: “Management has declared that without the authority of the government it is unable to increase the two per cent, although there is money to do so.”
A second bout of industrial action is scheduled to take place on 4th July, although HIAL are hopeful of getting talks restarted again before then.
A spokesman said: “We have continued to offer further talks on the opportunity to work together to improve future pay awards.”
He added that not all fire fighters and engineers at Sumburgh were union members, and even those who were had the option to choose whether or not to strike.
Peter Leask, of travel agent John Leask and Son in Lerwick, said they had been kept busy making alternative arrangements for passengers inconvenienced by the action.
“There has been a lot of folk that have had to make alterations, so there has certainly been a lot of changes that have had to be made, but everybody has been very reasonable about it,” he said.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott called on Ministers to find a solution to the strike, which he said was having a “crippling impact” on the islands, disrupting business and family travel.
“People have had to rearrange their travel plans, often at considerable cost,” he said.
“Shetland residents, businesses and tourists must not be left to face another day’s strike on 4th July.
“Ministers must act, and act quickly, to find a solution.”