Sunday 19 August 2018

DAA and Siptu talks 'on a knife edge' over pay

A 'toothless dragon' poster has not improved the mood among airport workers, writes Fearghal O'Connor

Brown Thomas boss Dalton Philips. Photo: PA
Brown Thomas boss Dalton Philips. Photo: PA

Fearghal O'Connor

DAA management has failed to reach agreement with Siptu at crunch talks aimed at lifting a two-year-long industrial relations deadlock at the company. Both sides have agreed to meet again, but there are concerns that a deal will be difficult to reach, according to well-informed sources.

Union participants are understood to believe the negotiation at the Workplace Relations Commission was unlikely to deliver anything close to the 19pc cumulative pay deal over three years that Siptu had initially sought last summer.

At the talks last Friday, the company is understood to have offered a cash payment of €1,000 to cover the first nine months of a proposed four-year pay agreement back dated to July 2016. The offer would see staff receive a further 2pc payment for the next 12 months, a further 2.75pc for the next 14 months and a further 2.75pc for the remaining 14 months, bringing the deal into the middle of 2020.

But the talks are understood to have broken down after trade unions sought a further percentage payment for the first year of the agreement on top of the cash payment. Management are understood to be seeking extra productivity from staff before agreeing to any such concessions. A key sticking point during earlier stages of the long deadlocked process was the company's proposal that staff agree to so-called "interoperability" that would see different operational departments take on a range of tasks from other departments.

Well-informed sources said there was a belief among the trade union participants that, following last Friday's unsuccessful negotiations, the talks are now destined for the Labour Court and that the union would revert to its original demand of an over 19pc cumulative pay rise.

But, following the talks, it is understood that all participants were contacted by the WRC to invite them to further exploratory talks this Wednesday to see if an agreement can be reached.

A source said the process was "on a knife edge", but a DAA spokesman said it "wasn't the case" to say the talks had stalled or were in difficulty.

"DAA held talks with Siptu representatives last Friday. No agreement was possible and we are meeting again this Wednesday," he said.

The mood among workers at the company was not helped after management put up posters that outlined the results of a survey the company had conducted among staff regarding its "performance management regime". The company poster stated that just 26pc of DAA staff had said that the company "takes appropriate action when dealing with poor performers".

The poster also showed a picture of a toothless dragon accompanied by the caption "The collapse of Better Together showed longer serving, and more troublesome staff, that the company doesn't have teeth or a backbone."

Another part read: "We have a large number of staff who are not performance managed and yet incredibly well paid."

Siptu agreed to attend exploratory talks at the WRC to break an impasse over pay and profit sharing at DAA. A proposed agreement called Better Together collapsed last year after it was rejected by Siptu members. Mandate and Impact staff had voted for it and have since agreed deals with management but there has been no resolution with Siptu, the company's biggest union.

Following the rejection of the previous proposals Siptu lodged its three-year 19pc cumulative pay claim in June 2017.

If the company and the trade union do reach an agreement and avoid the Labour Court they will still face a ballot of staff. The original Better Together agreement had been recommended for acceptance by Siptu but Siptu members had voted to reject it.

Since that initial rejection DAA has brought in former Morrisons and Brown Thomas boss Dalton Philips as its new chief executive at a time when passenger traffic is growing strongly and the company is embarking on a major capital programme, including the building of a new runway.

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