Friday 19 December 2014

Aer Lingus says damage is already done as court halts action at airports

Published 13/03/2014 | 02:30

Dermot O'Loughlin of SIPTU speaking to the media on leaving the Four Courts yesterday Picture: Collins
Dermot O'Loughlin of SIPTU speaking to the media on leaving the Four Courts yesterday Picture: Collins

TENS of thousands of air passengers have been spared major disruption at the country's three main airports tomorrow after the High Court blocked planned industrial action.

But Aer Lingus said that it was "too little, too late" and that "the damage had already been done" as it had to reschedule the flights of thousands of customers.

The Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) has been granted an injunction preventing trade union SIPTU from shutting down Dublin and Cork airports for four hours between 5am and 9am tomorrow.

And Mr Justice Paul Gilligan also extended the injunction to cover Shannon Airport, which is no longer part of the DAA.

The industrial action was planned as part of a long-running pensions dispute.

SHUTDOWN

SIPTU pensions adviser Dermot O'Loughlin confirmed that the union will comply fully with the High Court order, meaning that the threat of a disruptive St Patrick's weekend strike is off.

But he warned it would consult legal advisers "with a view to developing a strategy to enable us to exercise our right to withdraw labour and take industrial action" if the pensions issue isn't resolved.

As it was planned for the busiest time of day for the airports, tomorrow's stoppage would have caused chaos.

It would have affected thousands of passengers arriving for St Patrick's weekend, as well those heading to Paris for Ireland's crucial rugby match with France. Returning punters from the Cheltenham horse racing festival would also have been severely hit.

The DAA welcomed the decision to halt what it insisted was "unwarranted" action that had already caused "significant disruption".

But Aer Lingus – which was also served by SIPTU with notice of industrial action to take place tomorrow – had been forced to reschedule and cancel flights, hire aircraft and rebook passengers in advance of the anticipated shutdown and it can't now undo those plans.

A spokesman said: "The damage has already been done. The decision comes less than 36 hours before the stoppage was due to commence. The cloud of uncertainty created by the strike threat has damaged Aer Lingus's business and disrupted thousands of our customers."

Ryanair had also revised its flight schedule and will continue to use that altered timetable tomorrow morning.

A spokesman for Ryanair said it welcomed the High Court decision to block what it called "unwarranted strike action".

The spokesman added: "Revised flight schedules for Friday morning will remain in place to prevent any further inconvenience to our customers."

In an effort to resolve the pensions issue, the Government brokered a new plan last week that saw the establishment of an expert panel to investigate a possible resolution.

It's due to issue a preliminary report by the end of the month.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said he also welcomed the High Court decision.

"I have said on a number of occasions that the strike should have been deferred given that the expert panel is currently engaging with all parties involved in the dispute," he said.

The DAA insisted in court that the proposed action by SIPTU was unlawful and contrary to the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act.

Mr Justice Gilligan said there was a question to be tried in relation to the validity of the ballot undertaken by SIPTU and whether that ballot should have been confined to members of the troubled pension scheme.

He also said there was a fair question over whether personnel such as security staff, who had separate agreements, could engage in industrial action before certain procedures had been exhausted.

Irish Independent

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