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Tuesday 28 March 2017

Threat of airport disruption fades as air traffic controllers close to deal

Anne-Marie Walsh

THE threat of further disruptive airport strikes diminished last night after air traffic controllers and their employer edged towards agreement.

IMPACT and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) revealed that they had made significant progress over the introduction of contentious new work practices following almost seven hours of talks at the Labour Court.

Air traffic controllers have agreed to lift the threat of industrial action and participate in work practices they had refused to work on earlier this week.

The IAA, for its part, has lifted the suspension of 14 workers that sparked a four-hour strike and affected 20,000 passengers on Wednesday. They were back on the payroll from 6pm yesterday.

However, the IAA claimed it understands that some of the controllers may cause disruption through unofficial action this weekend by refusing to cover for any colleagues on sick leave. Their union, IMPACT, denies this.

The air traffic controllers took strike action on Wednesday that halted up to 150 flights and effectively shut down the three main airports.

The contentious work practices at the heart of the dispute included a new computer programme to make the air traffic control operation more efficient.

When the controllers refused to operate it earlier this week on instructions from their union, the IAA responded by suspending 14 of them.

The dispute over work practices had already been referred to the Labour Court when it decided to suspend the workers.

The IAA would not attend talks until the unions agreed to work on the new technology, and the union refused to negotiate until the suspensions were lifted. Following intervention by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and employers' body IBEC, the parties attended negotiations at the Labour Court yesterday without preconditions.

The IAA said it was pleased there would now be a full resumption of work by the controllers "with immediate effect".

IMPACT assistant general secretary Michael Landers said strikes are never popular at the "best of times" and the dispute should always have been dealt with at the Labour Court.

Irish Independent

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