Isles MSP Tavish Scott is calling on Unite to allow lifeline medical flights from the isles to continue through a proposed strike at Aberdeen Airport.
Mr Scott has appealed to Unite’s Scottish secretary, Pat Rafferty, after workers at the Airport voted for strike action in a dispute over pay.
Workers at Aberdeen Airport have announced their intention to strike at points throughout late July and August.
And Mr Scott said this would deny NHS patients living in Orkney and Shetland the opportunity to attend scheduled medical appointments in Aberdeen through no fault of their own.
Mr Scott wrote:The strike action would affect not only leisure and business travellers, but also NHS patients travelling from Orkney and Shetland for treatment on the mainland. Any avoidable delay in receiving essential treatment is unacceptable.
“Many of these passengers have been waiting for their appointments for months if not years, and have no way to access the treatment and specialists they need at home.
“Travelling out with the isles for medical treatment is already stressful for vulnerable isles residents without the added anxiety caused by cancellations. Rescheduling appointments is not easy for those living in remote communities and patients may have a lengthy wait for another opportunity to travel.
“The right to strike is an important one and I understand that strikes have to cause disruption in order to be effective.
“But, I urge your members to carefully consider this compromise: Loganair flights from the North Isles use smaller aircraft which require a lower level of fire service cover.
“Therefore, Unite members could guarantee a minimum level of fire and security coverage on the proposed strike dates, allowing life-line Orkney and Shetland flights to continue for essential medical travel.
“I hope further discussions will resolve the dispute before any strike action goes ahead and that the needs of North Isles passengers are at the forefront of your decision making.”
Meanwhile, Loganair is giving passengers in Shetland the chance to change their flights.
About 170 members, including key airport staff, security workers and firefighters have voted in favour of striking – with more talks expected next week involving conciliation service Acas.
Twenty-four-hour strikes are planned for Friday 20th July as well as on Thursday 2nd August and Thursday16th August.
Loganair managing director Jonathan Hinkles said passengers could change their flights free of charge.
He said: “Although there is still time for the strike to be averted and we hope it will be, we are offering customers booked to fly to or from Aberdeen on the strike dates the opportunity to change their travel date or route if they wish.
“This is free of charge and designed to offer certainty of alternatives for those booked to travel.
“We also have contingency plans to operate Aberdeen flights to alternate airports on strike days if this does go ahead, and will announce details of those if this action cannot be averted. Our website is up to date with the latest information.”
Unite regional officer Wullie Wallace expected talks with Acas next week. The dispute is over pay for airport workers. A total of 88 per cent of workers rejected the latest pay offer.
The union said members had rejected two below-inflation wage offers on the back of below inflation increases over the last two years.
Mr Wallace said: “Aberdeen International Airport’s latest derisory pay offer has been emphatically rejected by Unite members. The workforce for several years now has received below inflation increases and the company’s idea of rewarding its hard working employees is by offering more real terms pay cuts.
“Aberdeen Airport has been investing heavily into improving the airport facilities and amenities. It’s high time for the company to invest in its employees. Unite remains open to further discussions with a view to resolving the dispute.”
An unattributed quote from an Aberdeen spokesman stated: “We have been informed by Unite of their intention to take industrial action on Friday 20th July.
“This follows the rejection of our proposed pay offer. We believe we have made an offer that is entirely fair and reasonable and we are committed to continuing discussions to reach a resolution acceptable to all parties.
“We have made contact with Acas which has agreed to mediate between both parties. We are seeking a suitable date to continue our discussions in an attempt to reach a mutually agreeable position.
“We will, as a matter of course, ensure contingency plans are in place in the event of any planned industrial action.”