Business Irish

Saturday 23 September 2017

Air traffic staff attack Varadkar strike-ban call

'Unlike their French counterparts, Irish controllers have not shut the country's airspace. But a recent airline industry report showed the potential cost of ATC strikes, with repeated French actions costing the European economy €12bn since 2010.' Stock photo: Bloomberg
'Unlike their French counterparts, Irish controllers have not shut the country's airspace. But a recent airline industry report showed the potential cost of ATC strikes, with repeated French actions costing the European economy €12bn since 2010.' Stock photo: Bloomberg

Fearghal O'Connor

Taoiseach-in-waiting Leo Varadkar may be celebrating but his victorious campaign has drawn an angry rebuke from air traffic controllers.

Comments made by the new Fine Gael leader during the leadership campaign were "reprehensible in the extreme", said a letter fired off to Varadkar last week.

Varadkar singled out air traffic controllers as a group he would like to see barred from strike action. But Helen Sheridan, general secretary of Impact's ATC branch, said that the union "will vociferously defend its rights under the Lisbon Treaty to engage in industrial action, including the freedom to strike".

"Indeed, we would defend the rights of all Irish workers to organise and to legally engage in industrial action where warranted," it said.

Unlike their French counterparts, Irish controllers have not shut the country's airspace. But a recent airline industry report showed the potential cost of ATC strikes, with repeated French actions costing the European economy €12bn since 2010.

Nevertheless, Varadkar's moves to single out "a responsible employee grouping ... with a history of engaging with the industrial relations mechanisms of the State are reprehensible in the extreme", she wrote.

"They also show a degree of ignorance of industrial relations in this country," she said, pointing out that a disputes resolutions board at the Irish Aviation Authority was now seen as a model for other European air navigation service providers.

"I would also remind you that strong unions who engage positively with employers are good for employment stability and growth - this is the policy you should be advocating, not seeking to undermine workers' rights."

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