Fears of strike action at the country’s main airports rose today after staff at the Dublin Airport Authority sanctioned both industrial and strike action on foot of a long-running pension dispute.
Trade union Siptu balloted staff at the DAA who are members of the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme (IASS). The defined benefit pension vehicle serves thousands of former and current staff members at the DAA, Aer Lingus and Shannon Airport.
The IASS has a massive €800m deficit and efforts to address that have been underway for years.
Last year, it appeared a breakthrough had been achieved when Aer Lingus and the DAA agreed to contribute €200m between them to establish new defined contribution schemes for staff at both companies. But the plan hit a roadblock with the Pensions Ombudsman that still hasn’t been resolved.
Siptu has balloted staff at the DAA, Aer Lingus and Shannon Airport.
The result of the DAA count shows that 94pc of those balloted approved industrial action, 89pc sanctioned strike action and 81pc approved the withholding of contributions to the IASS.
However, it’s unclear how the latter sanction may work in practice. It’s thought that the companies involved may continue to have a legal obligation to continue taking payments for the IASS from employees’ paypackets.
Speaking in Shannon last week, Aer Lingus boss Christoph Mueller said that he has sympathy for those who are unhappy about the situation with the pension scheme.
“What we don't like is that we are obviously being used as a stick to beat somebody else,” he said.
He added: “The difficulty of the situation is such that there's is no remedy possible from the airline's side unless we breach the law so that is a very difficult situation we are confronted with.”