Gib air traffic controllers ballot for industrial action over pay
Air traffic controllers working for NATS Gibraltar will be balloting for industrial action over pay, although the UK Prospect union has “ruled out” strike action.
Steve Jary, Prospect negotiator, told the Chronicle the ballot opened yesterday and closes on July 22.
During this time, the 10 air traffic controllers employed by NATS Gibraltar can decide on what industrial action they will be willing to take.
The timing and precise form of any industrial action is yet to be announced but it is likely to include an overtime ban, withdrawal of goodwill and a ban on shift swaps, which are highly regulated due to safety reasons.
The pay dispute arises because air traffic controllers working for NATS in Gibraltar are used to receiving annual pay increases such as those received by NATS staff in the UK.
Mr Jary said: “Our members working at NATS Gibraltar have inferior terms and conditions to their colleagues in the UK, but, historically, they have had the same annual pay deal.”
“It is not unreasonable to expect that to continue.”
“If air traffic controllers in Gibraltar fall further behind the UK, then recruitment and retention will become a problem.”
“It is in the best interests of all involved to come to a pay deal that is acceptable to everyone and does not penalise our members for choosing to work in Gibraltar.”
Changes in the management of the contract with the Ministry of Defence covering air traffic control at Gibraltar International Airport has meant that NATS’ pay offer for 2018 and 2019 “falls short” of air traffic controllers in the rest of the company.
In a statement to the press, Prospect said: “Following lengthy negotiations, a revised offer from NATS was deemed to be insufficient to resolve the dispute and so Prospect is balloting its air traffic controller members on whether they wish to take industrial action short of a strike.”
Mr Jary is hoping that NATS Gibraltar is able to have a “fresh look” at the negotiations to be able to come up with new ideas to suit union members.
He said: “I am hopeful it will not come to a point where we would have to take action and we will be able to negotiate a settlement.”
“It is only 10 people here, a pay rise is not going to break the bank.”
A NATS spokesman said: “NATS is disappointed that the trade union at Gibraltar Airport, Prospect, is balloting its air traffic controller members due to a pay dispute.”
“We have been in constant dialogue with the union and will continue to follow dispute procedures in an effort to resolve the issue.”
“We have always negotiated pay separately in Gibraltar since the contract came to NATS in 2006 and the pay awards have varied over the years compared to the mainland dealing with local issues appropriately.”
The Chronicle also reached out to the MOD for a comment but received no answer by the time this edition went to print.