Union Prospect said its members have been left with “no choice” but to support industrial action over an air traffic control dispute with Highlands and Islands Limited (Hial).
Hial, which operates Sumburgh Airport, plans to create a central air traffic control hub in Inverness and relocate services from the isles.
A survey conducted by the union found air traffic staff were overwhelmingly opposed to the remote towers project and supported industrial action. The vast majority of staff indicated they were not prepared to relocate to Inverness regardless of the relocation terms offered, according to the union.
Prospect’s negotiations officer David Avery said: “Prospect never undertakes industrial action lightly but members feel they have been left with no choice but to support action to defend their communities.”
“Prospect members are currently considering the form of action they might take so as to minimise the impact on local communities particularly during the ongoing pandemic,” he added.
Prospect had received an invitation from Hial to further talks on Thursday evening, Mr Avery said, and was considering its response.
The airport operator refuted the union’s claim that centralisation would result in 50 staff redundancies.
Hial managing director Inglis Lyon said: “We were made aware of the outcome of Prospect’s survey amongst our air traffic colleagues and we are very disappointed they are considering industrial action.
“Such action is disruptive for our communities, businesses, travellers and airlines at any time, but is even more so during the current pandemic and at a time when the aviation industry is severely impacted by the effects of the virus.
“We wish to avoid industrial action and have therefore written to Prospect to suggest we engage the services of an external facilitator to help resolve matters and we await a response.
“We categorically refute Prospect’s claims of 50 staff redundancies. From the outset, we have been clear that HIAL has a no compulsory redundancy policy and we are exploring all options with our colleagues.”
Prospect said its members were supportive of modernising Hial’s air traffic control infrastructure but believed that this should be delivered at each airport rather than centralised in Inverness.
Mr Avery said: “Prospect members in Hial are absolutely committed to protecting and serving their local communities.
“That is why they are opposing this deeply damaging project which will reduce services at two airports, take £2.2 million of direct employment out of local economies and put nearly 50 staff out of a job.”