In parliament Nicola Sturgeon made it abundantly clear that she thought it was the employer’s responsibility:
Given the fact that Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd air traffic controllers propose to take strike action on Thursday of next week, can the First Minister update Parliament on the Scottish Government’s contingency plans to minimise disruption to businesses, families and patients in the Highlands and Islands?
It is disappointing that the industrial action is taking place. I appeal both to the employer and to the employees to continue to discuss how it can be resolved in order that there is no disruption to the travelling public. Of course, it is for HIAL to ensure that it has contingency plans in place, and it is working to do that. I am sure that HIAL will be glad to engage directly with any interested member of the Scottish Parliament.
(Source: First Minister's Questions, 16/05/19)
But both privately and in public HIAL has said that it is entirely constrained by ministerial guidelines when it comes to setting pay. Both cannot be correct.
David Avery, Prospect negotiations officer, said:
“This unedifying blame game between HIAL and Scottish ministers will do nothing to resolve the dispute and it is passengers in the Highlands and Islands who will suffer.
“For more than a year Prospect has been acting in good faith in an attempt to achieve a pay deal that will secure the long term future of air travel in the Highlands and Islands. Without a significantly improved deal we will lose capacity to better-paying airports and planes will not be able to fly. These are lifeline services.
“Now it seems that neither HIAL, nor Scottish ministers, are prepared to take responsibility for sorting this out. How can we negotiate with a body that says it is not its responsibility? If it is the responsibility of ministers then why has the transport minister refused to meet with us.
“My message to those suffering disruption to their flights is clear - ministers and HIAL have the power to end this strike today and to end this disruption but are choosing not to. Worse, they are choosing to pass the buck and blame each other for the failure of negotiations. With no one stepping up to take responsibility there is no end in sight for this action. Ministers need to step in now and end this blatant dereliction of their duty.”