Air control strike 'to escalate'
Strike action that will ground more than 150 flights in and out of the country is set to escalate, aviation authorities have warned.
Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports will shut down for up to four hours on Wednesday afternoon despite airport chiefs and airlines calling for the stoppage by air traffic controllers to be called off.
Aer Lingus said 64 services in and out of the country have been cancelled, although most of the carrier's long-haul and transatlantic flights have survived the disruption.
Ryanair, which is cancelling 48 flights affecting 6,000 passengers, called on military air traffic controllers to step in and keep the airports open.
Liam Kavanagh, human resources director at the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), confirmed the action will spark massive disruption, which is likely to be stepped up.
He said airports cannot operate in an environment of uncertainty and he called on controllers to resume normal working practices, to drop a pay rise claim and to pay a contribution towards their pension.
"They are among the best-paid public servants in the country," he said. "On average, they cost the Irish Aviation Authority €160,000 each. Earnings for the top 10pc of controllers in the country last year ranged from €170,000 to €230,000.
"We want them to be reasonable and suspend discussion of this 6pc increase. We have told them we will be happy to review it in 2012. We have not cut salaries. We are not cutting jobs," he added.
But the Impact union blamed the IAA for the stoppage, and said although there is a dispute over pay increases, that is a separate issue.
The IAA suspended 12 air traffic controllers - seven in Dublin and five in Cork - for refusing to co-operate with new working arrangements. The union said the revised practices, which involve new technology, would mean more work, but a spokesman said the disruption could be averted if the suspensions were lifted.