By RYAN TAYLOR
HIGH LEVEL talks will take place next week in a bid to avert a second day of strike action at Sumburgh Airport.
Officials from the public services union Unite will meet with management of HIAL in the hope an agreement can be struck preventing airports in the north from grinding to a halt.
Hundreds of air passengers booked on to scheduled flights were left in the lurch when Sumburgh workers went on strike on Monday.
The skies above the airport fell silent when union members working as firefighters 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.”
If successful, the coming talks on Monday could prevent a second bout of industrial action, which
was scheduled to take place on 4th July.
A spokesman said: “All parties will be sitting down to try to find a way out of the current dispute.
“We want to identify a way forward that will allow us to work together on the issue of pay.
“We also want to avoid a second day of disruption to passengers at our airports.”
He added that not all firefighters and engineers at Sumburgh were union members, and even those who were had the option to choose whether or not to strike.
HIAL will have to notify airlines by close of play on Monday whether or not it expects strike action to close airports on Monday.
Peter Leask, of travel agent John Leask and Son in Lerwick, said Monday’s strike had kept them 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 urged 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.”