Prestwick Airport could be hit by strike action this summer after one of the country's largest trade unions announced that workers are to be balloted in a row over pay.

Unite has hit back at the refusal of airport management to pay shift pay and meet the real Living Wage rate for new starters. 

The union also says workers are being told to accept what is, in effect, a pay cut whilst inflation reaches its highest level in 40 years.

With real-terms inflation now at 11.7 per cent, Unite says the offer to its members at Prestwick of between 4 and 6.5 per cent is a "significant real terms pay cut".

Unite wants the lowest-paid workers at the airport to receive at least the Scottish Real Living Wage rate of £9.90 an hour.

The ballot, which opened on July 5 and closes on July 19, includes airport security, firefighters, airfield operators, ground crew, ground handling, cargo, customer services, and cleaners.

An earlier consultative ballot revealed that 86 per cent of Unite’s members at the airport supported taking strike action.

Along with domestic and international commercial flights, Prestwick is also a cargo base and hosts significant numbers of military flights and refuels from North America,

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Prestwick Airport and the Scottish Government need to urgently improve their pay proposals for these workers.

“While directors’ pay is protected, workers are being told to take a substantial real terms pay cut. And disgracefully, they want to keep new starters on a rock bottom rate that is lower than the real living wage.

“Prestwick Airport and the Scottish Government need to put an improved offer on the table because Unite will resolutely support our members in their fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.”

The airport was taken into public ownership in November 2013 after being purchased by the Scottish Government for £1.

Unite says the airport's publicly-owned status means low pay rates at the facility undermine the government's 'fair work' agenda.

Siobhan McCready, Unite industrial officer said: “Prestwick Airport is proposing to pay less than the Real Living Wage for some of our members, which makes a mockery of the Scottish Government’s Fair Work agenda. 

"Both the airport and the Scottish Government should be setting a lead and practicing what they preach. It's double standards of the highest order.

“The offer on the table is completely unacceptable and our members are not prepared to tolerate lousy pay. Simply put, they have had enough.”

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: "Glasgow Prestwick Airport is operated on a commercial basis and at arm’s length from the Scottish Government in compliance with our obligations under the Trade and Co-operation Agreement between the UK and the EU.

“Ministers have no role in the day-to-day operation of the airport and do not intervene in commercial or operational matters. Staffing issues, including pay, are matters for the airport and the union.

“We encourage all parties to continue to engage with each other to reach a solution to this dispute.”

While a spokesperson for Glasgow Prestwick Airport added: “Following extensive negotiations with unions the airport recently made an enhanced pay offer which will see 70% of our 300-plus employees receiving a pay increase of 6.5% or above, improvements to allowances, increased annual leave entitlement, enhanced sick pay provisions, and up to 2% more employer pension contributions.

"All qualified permanent staff will earn above the real living wage.

“This deal was accepted by the majority of our staff, including Prospect union members, but disappointingly was rejected by Unite. 

"Following a recent consultative ballot to support strike action, which was backed by just 15% of our staff, Unite is now formally balloting for potential strike action no earlier than mid-August.

“We await the outcome of the ballot and whilst any industrial action would be unwelcome and would further delay delivery of the pay deal to our staff, we will work hard to ensure that our customers are not impacted.”