Friday 21 November 2014

Court bid to avert airport strikes over St Patrick's holiday weekend

John Mulligan and Aodhan O'Faolain

Published 08/03/2014 | 02:30

Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar TD. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar TD. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

There was fresh hope last night that industrial action at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports on St Patrick's weekend could be averted.

It comes after the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) and Ryanair separately sought High Court injunctions to prevent the unrest.

They both want to prevent members of trade union SIPTU from engaging in a four-hour work stoppage at the airports between 5am and 9am next Friday. Aer Lingus will also be hit with industrial action that day.

The stoppage threatens to cause major disruption for St Patrick's weekend, as well as for rugby fans travelling to Paris for Ireland's crunch game with France and race-goers returning from Cheltenham.

The applications for the injunctions will be mentioned in court on Monday, with the DAA's application slated to be heard on Tuesday.

The DAA said it had "no choice" but to seek the injunction in the High Court. It claimed that SIPTU had "failed to respond positively to two separate communications requiring the threat of industrial action to be lifted".

It continued: "DAA is seeking an injunction on the basis that the proposed action by SIPTU is unlawful, as it is contrary to the provisions of the Industrial Relations Act.

"SIPTU only balloted a portion of its membership on the proposal and the planned work stoppages are also contrary to existing agreements between the company and the trade union," added the semi-state company.

The DAA is responsible for running Dublin and Cork airports. Shannon Airport is now a separate entity.

The DAA said it intended to "pursue all avenues at its disposal to avert this action by SIPTU and to keep its airports fully operational".

SIPTU has been criticised by business groups and Transport Minister Leo Varadkar for failing to call off next Friday's planned work stoppages, despite a new, government-brokered initiative having got under way to help resolve a long-running pensions row.

Martin Hayden SC, for Ryanair, told Mr Justice Paul Gilligan in court yesterday that the proposed strike action by SIPTU was "opportunistic in the extreme".

Counsel said the strike would result in the airports being shut down during one of the busiest weekends of the year.

The date had been chosen to cause maximum harm and damage to innocent third parties in what is a private dispute, the airline claims. It has sought an injunction preventing action at all three airports.

PASSENGERS

The stoppage would affect almost 100 Ryanair flights, which would carry approximately 13,500 passengers, counsel said.

Ryanair seeks various injunctions, including ones restraining SIPTU and its members from organising or participating in strikes at the three airports next Friday.

It is seeking declarations that the trade union is acting unlawfully because such a stoppage constitutes a wrongful interference with Ryanair's economic rights and business interests.

"SIPTU's action is unlawful, unfair to our customers and an unnecessary burden on this island economy," said a Ryanair spokesman.

Irish Independent

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