Gib airport faces further disruption as UK union ballots NATS members for...

Air traffic control services at Gibraltar International Airport could be hit by strike action as members of the UK’s Public and Commercial Services Union [PCS] declared a dispute over pay.

PCS represents assistants and medical staff who provide essential support services to air traffic controllers, and without which the airport cannot operate.

The dispute is with NATS, the UK company that provides air traffic control in Gibraltar under contract to the Ministry of Defence, which operates the runway.

According to PCS, its members in Gibraltar are “on less preferential terms” to colleagues in the UK.

The union said it had attempted to resolve the situation in talks with NATS management over a pay offer for the period from 2020 to 2022.

But despite three meetings, no agreement has been reached.

“Meanwhile our members need an urgent pay increase to keep up with the cost of living,” PCS said in a statement announcing a ballot for strike action.

“NATS attached caveats to their original pay offer which would have weakened our members’ terms and conditions.”

“The only movement they have made is to remove those unfair caveats.”

“The offer of base Gibraltar RPI of 4.8% for the two-year period offers no true cost of living increases and fails to address the issues our members face.”

“The low salaries and poor morale within the airport tower have resulted in staff being unwilling to cover overtime shifts and sickness.”

PCS said the strike ballot will take place between February 21 and March 10.

“PCS will always strive to improve the pay of our members who have continued to work tirelessly throughout the pandemic and we will not tolerate tactics from the employer to continue to delay talks whilst tabling an offer which falls significantly short of our members’ aspirations and needs,” said PCS full time official Adam Verinder.

The ballot for strike action comes after months of intermittent disruption over staffing issues affecting air traffic control services in Gibraltar.

On multiple occasions, flights have been delayed, diverted and on occasion cancelled as a result, causing major disruption to passengers.

A spokesperson for NATS said air traffic control was a safety service.

"It is, therefore, regrettable that the PCS union has decided to call a ballot following the latest round of pay talks to agree a settlement for 2022," the spokesperson told the Chronicle.

“We have worked hard to find common ground. We have offered a pay rise of 4.8%, which is in line with Gibraltar RPI, backdated more than a year to 1 January 2022."

"In addition, we have offered a £3,000 lump sum to colleagues who joined us before April, so as to help with cost-of-living increases."

"This is in line with what we have already agreed with PCS members in the UK for 2022."

“We believe this is a generous offer at a time when the aviation industry is still struggling."

"This action will cause unnecessary disruption for passengers and we ask PCS to return to talks to find a resolution.”

The Gibraltar Government has previously called on the MoD and NATS to resolve the issues affecting air traffic control services, highlighting the critical role of the airport to Gibraltar’s economy.

“The Gibraltar Government is very concerned about the many challenges which are manifesting themselves to the reliable operation of the air traffic control services at Gibraltar Airport,” a spokesperson for No.6 Convent Place told the Chronicle on Tuesday night.

“This is an MoD responsibility which is outsourced by them.”

“That outsourcing contract is presently clearly failing and the Government has no alternative but to keep all options on the table to ensure the continued operation, in close consultation and cooperation with the MoD, to ensure that no civil contingencies arise as a result of these air traffic control failings.”

The MoD has also been approached for comment.