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Wednesday 1 October 2014

SIPTU faced with €300k legal bill for failed strike bid

Martin Frawley

Published 22/03/2014 | 02:30

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Mr Justice Paul Gilligan. Picture: Maxwells
Mr Justice Paul Gilligan. Picture: Maxwells

SIPTU faces legal costs of up to €300,000 following a High Court decision to grant an injunction to the Dublin Airport Authority preventing a four-hour St Patrick's Day strike.

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In a major financial blow to the country's largest union, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan last week ordered SIPTU to pay the DAA and Ryanair's legal costs incurred in securing the injunction.

A source close to the dispute estimated the cost to SIPTU at €300,000 for both parties, which, he said, would blow "a huge hole" in the union's finances.

However, Justice Gilligan granted the union a short reprieve, when he put a stay on the order of costs pending a full hearing of the case.

But it is unclear what will happen regarding costs if the case does not go to a full hearing.

Sources close to the dispute suggested that the DAA could use Justice Gilligan's ruling on costs as a bargaining tool to secure agreement with SIPTU on the long-running and increasingly bitter pensions dispute.

Like most other unions in the country, SIPTU has suffered a decline in membership – and thus income – since the onset of the recession.

A SIPTU spokesman would not comment on the size of the legal bill it is facing but acknowledged that High Court proceedings are expensive.

DAMAGE

He added that the union will abide by High Court orders and it will continue to co-operate with the government-appointed Expert Panel formed to resolve the pension dispute by the end of the month.

The dispute is over a €780m deficit in the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme, which covers former and current staff in Aer Lingus and the DAA.

IMPACT, which represents about 1,000 cabin crew in Aer Lingus, did not ballot staff for strike action.

The High Court said last week that SIPTU had produced no evidence to assist the court in determining whether it conducted its ballot for strike action in accordance with the 1990 Industrial Relations Act.

The threat to SIPTU comes on top of last week's shock move by Aer Lingus to sue the union and its official, Dermot O'Loughlin, for "millions of euro" over its strike threat.

The airline said that the threatened action meant "significant damage" had been inflicted on forward bookings while it had also incurred costs in hiring additional aircraft, which was too late to change.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said that the decision by Aer Lingus to sue SIPTU was "unhelpful" and that parties should be focused on the core problems.

Irish Independent

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