independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Unions may be 'personally liable' for losses if strike goes ahead - Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus

AER Lingus has warned that it may hold Siptu and relevant officials “personally liable” for any losses caused if airline staff opt for industrial action over a pension crisis.

Unions will begin balloting over 2,000 staff at Dublin Airport Authority and Shannon Airport this weekend over possible industrial action as they ramp up pressure to resolve a pension crisis.

But in a statement to the Irish Stock Exchange this morning, Aer Lingus said Siptu’s actions and pension demands are “completely unreasonable and unacceptable.”

“Aer Lingus simply cannot accede to Siptu's demands because this would require Aer Lingus to breach its legal obligations,” the statement said.

The ballot comes as unions step up efforts to force a resolution to a pension issue that affects thousands of staff.

However, it's understood that there will be no threat of any action until the New Year, meaning Christmas travellers won't be impacted.

The Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme (IASS), a defined benefit scheme, has a deficit of about €800m.

Earlier this year, Aer Lingus agreed to a Labour Court recommendation that would see it inject a total of €140m into a new defined contribution scheme.

The DAA also agreed to stump up €60m for a new separate defined contribution scheme in respect of its workers’ involvement in the IASS.

The deal was meant to see the IASS being frozen and its assets being invested in bonds.

Unions have also said that the amounts proposed by Aer Lingus and the DAA to kick-start a new defined contribution scheme aren’t enough.

The airline accused the union of insisting on demands that disrespected the Labour Court and advocating industrial action without further talks with Aert Lingus bosses.

“Aer Lingus will now consider what further steps it should take in relation to Siptu's communication of 5 December 2013,” the statement said.

“This will include taking legal advice as to whether the threatened industrial action relates to a "trade dispute" within the meaning of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990, and whether in advocating industrial action in these circumstances, Siptu is acting outside the protections set out in Section 13 of that Act.

“Aer Lingus may therefore hold Siptu and all relevant officers and officials personally liable in respect of any losses sustained by Aer Lingus by reason of any unlawful and unwarranted disruption caused by the purported industrial action referred to in the SIPTU communication of 5 December 2013.”

Earlier this week, Aer Lingus chief Christoph Mueller, told staff that they will receive a 2013 pay increment and this will be reflected in their pay cheques this month.

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