Travel chaos averted as pilots call off strike plans
Union sets a date to 'resolve outstanding issues'
Published 07/06/2011 | 05:00
TRAVEL chaos has been averted at least temporarily for Aer Lingus passengers after pilots called off their planned industrial action.
However, the pilots warned last night that the action has only been suspended for a number of weeks, with further talks due to take place with management over the coming weeks.
A deadline of July 1 has been set for resolving any outstanding rostering issues and to allow for the implementation of roster changes already agreed.
It is understood that pilots want a longer-term roster to replace the current week-to-week schedule so they would be able to plan further into the future, and Aer Lingus has agreed to draw up a new system.
Flights expected to be cancelled today in Dublin and Cork will now go ahead as scheduled, meaning relief for an estimated 30,000 travellers. However, a number of issues are still to be resolved for pilots based in Belfast and Gatwick. Further discussions took place at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) yesterday, with agreement reached on the main issues of concern for the pilots in the two bases.
These issues included management of the peak summer-period roster, the development of a longer term form of roster, and the issue of Belfast-based pilots being paid less than others.
Details of the agreement for the Belfast and Gatwick pilots will not be released until those pilots have been balloted. The result of the ballot will be known later this week. If the pilots reject the offer, flights could be cancelled in Gatwick and Belfast next week.
Speaking after the talks concluded, Aer Lingus HR manager Michael Grealy said he hoped the proposals will eliminate the need for any industrial action next week and later this summer. The new summer rosters will be implemented between now and July 1, with rules governing the new, longer-term roster system to be agreed by the same date.
However IALPA, the union for the pilots, pointed out that the action has only been "suspended" until that date.
A spokesman said the dispute centred on a shortage of pilots, adding that rosters were chaotic last summer, with pilots regularly forced to work six out of seven days throughout the high season.
Up to 30,000 passengers fly with Aer Lingus every day, but the airline said just 3,500 had cancelled or rescheduled their flights for later in the week. Those who had rescheduled can now revert to their original flight at no additional charge.
However, the threat of potential industrial action later this summer is likely to make passengers nervous about booking with the airline until the matter has been fully resolved.