DAA unions 'sharpen scalpel' on pay talks as dividend is revealed
Tensions between trade unions and the DAA flared yesterday as crucial talks on a new operational and pay structure restarted, after it emerged that the airport operator paid an €18.3m dividend to the State last month but didn't tell staff.
Siptu official Greg Ennis - who was at yesterday's talks - expressed shock when the Irish Independent revealed to him that the dividend had been paid, and said it was "at best, a show of bad faith" by DAA management.
He said that in light of the dividend having been paid, that the union would no "sharpen its scalpel" with regard to pay talks that started again yesterday after a summer break.
"It will make a difference to the negotiations that are about to commence," he said.
The DAA - which controls Dublin and Cork airports - employs about 2,500, 2,000 of whom are members of unions including Siptu and Impact.
Siptu, Impact and Mandate pulled out of negotiations for a so-called 'New Model Agreement' with the DAA in February when DAA chief executive Kevin Toland confirmed at the time that the company intended to pay its first dividend since 2009. Profits at the DAA soared 47pc to €61m last year as it benefited from a surge in air traffic and passenger numbers.
That planned new labour agreement - which will take months to hammer out - is focused on pay and rewards, operational change, and the possible introduction of a new internal disputes resolution body.
The Labour Court recommended in 2014 that an internal disputes resolution body be established at the DAA.
Mr Ennis wrote to Mr Toland in February, telling him that the New Model Agreement negotiations could collapse altogether if members did not receive confirmation that temporary pay cuts were being restored before any dividend was paid.
As the downturn took hold, the DAA temporarily cut pay in 2010 for its workers by an average of 6pc. Those cuts affected basic pay, as well as overtime and Christmas bonuses.
Mr Ennis said that the measures had resulted in an annual surplus in projected savings since 2010 of €7.9m.
The DAA agreed to restore pay, and did so in June this year. It's retrospective to January this year, and staff received the amounts due between January and June in their pay cheques within the past couple of weeks.
The New Model Agreement talks got under way again in June for two weeks and restarted yesterday. It's understood that when it paid a dividend in the past, the DAA did not make any public statement at the time the payments were made.
They were only referred to in the annual report in respect of the year to which the dividend related. "The payment of a dividend is a matter for the board of the company and is communicated by the company in the annual report for the year in question," said a DAA spokesman.
The DAA last paid a dividend in 2009, when it handed €19.4m over to the Exchequer.