Government and unions in last-ditch bid to avoid Aer Lingus strike chaos
EXPLORATORY talks between government departments and workers' unions have begun in a last-ditch attempt to avoid a St Patrick's weekend strike at Aer Lingus and at Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said he believed the strike is "deliberately timed to cause maximum disruption to tourists".
"Obviously if there's a strike I'll be cancelling my (St Patrick's Day) trip (to America) and staying," he said.
"I'm certainly not going to be dealing with it from the United States," Mr Varadkar said on RTE's Marian Finucane show yesterday.
The minister also revealed that while officials at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport have been putting contingency plans together in case the strike goes ahead, they have also engaged with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
"There have been exploratory discussions involving my department, Richard Bruton's department, ICTU and IBEC with a view to an intervention led by us over the next couple of days," stated the minister.
The dispute at state airports and at Aer Lingus relates to a disagreement over a €7m deficit in their pension fund. While there are plans to reschedule flights, rearrange air-traffic control and to make use of ferries, Mr Varadkar believes that the intervention will be successful.
"They (the talks) have gone well and we do hope to put a process in place in the next couple of days that could prevent the strike happening and perhaps resolve the underlying issue," he said.
Speaking on Newstalk, the minister confirmed that while there could be government intervention, it would not be financial. "There is absolutely no question whatsoever of the exchequer putting money into this pension fund," he said.
Aer Lingus management has threatened to freeze productivity payments to staff if the strike goes ahead.
SIPTU says its workers will strike between 5am and 9am on Friday, March 14, ahead of the St Patrick's weekend.