Airport authority 'astonished' as strike to go ahead
THOUSANDS of air travellers are still facing massive disruption at the country's main airports on St Patrick's weekend after SIPTU refused to call off planned industrial action.
The Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) said it was "astonished and taken aback" by SIPTU's decision not to postpone the action despite a new government-brokered attempt to defuse the situation.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has also expressed his deep frustration at the union's position, saying it's "not right" that its members are intent on strike action when there's a process under way to break the deadlock.
SIPTU has served notice of industrial action on Aer Lingus, the DAA and Shannon Airport for a four-hour work stoppage between 5am and 9am on Friday, March 14 – just as St Patrick's weekend gets under way and as Ireland's rugby team faces a crunch battle against France in Paris. Thousands will also be returning home from Cheltenham in the UK.
The stoppage has been called by the union over a long-running pensions issue.
The Government, business group IBEC and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions have agreed to set up an expert panel to review the issues at the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme (IASS), which has a deficit of €800m. The panel is due to deliver a preliminary report at the end of this month.
While SIPTU has said it will engage with the panel, the union's pensions committee refused – after meeting yesterday morning – to postpone industrial action while the panel investigates the IASS. The committee is due to meet again on Friday.
"Given the establishment of a high-level independent body to examine the pension issue, SIPTU's decision to continue with industrial action also flies in the face of ICTU's position on this matter," the DAA said.
Last night Aer Lingus released a statement saying its operations and planning teams are putting solutions in place to minimise the effects of the SIPTU strike.
"These solutions will include the retiming of some flights to avoid the four-hour strike period," it read.
The airline said the IASS issue was subject to an "exhaustive review" by the Labour Court last year. It intends to engage with the expert panel but said "significant commercial damage" has already been caused to its business as a result of the strike threat.