Business Irish

Sunday 22 April 2018

Air traffic controllers told to work beyond overtime limits by union

 

If controllers refuse to go along with the union and Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) deal to extend the overtime limitations it could lead to staff shortages and potential disruption. Stock photo: Bloomberg
If controllers refuse to go along with the union and Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) deal to extend the overtime limitations it could lead to staff shortages and potential disruption. Stock photo: Bloomberg

Fearghal O'Connor

Air traffic controllers have been told by their trade union to work beyond agreed safety and fatigue limits because of staffing shortages in the control tower at Shannon Airport.

Air traffic control services at both Shannon and Dublin - which experienced record traffic levels last year - are heavily dependent on staff agreeing to work overtime because of a reduction in the availability of staff for rostered duties, it is understood.

If controllers refuse to go along with the union and Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) deal to extend the overtime limitations it could lead to staff shortages and potential disruption.

Under the deal, staff will be allowed to work an extra 12 days of overtime each between now and the end of May on a voluntary basis.

Many staff are understood to be furious with trade union officials after they agreed the deal without widespread consultation that these limits could be broken in the Shannon control tower.

But a letter from ATC trade union general secretary Helen Sheridan to controllers said that the service has a "chronic dependence on overtime and an inability to provide statutory leave entitlements".

A limit of 24 overtime days a year - or three per month - for safety and fatigue management reasons is in place for controllers. The IAA's overtime year runs from the start of June until the end of May. Sheridan told controllers that "decisions have to be made about maintaining service levels" at the Shannon control tower "over the coming months".

"As a number of STBU [Shannon control tower] staff are reaching the overtime limits set out under the 2008 Labour Court Recommendation, the company requested that both sides engage to see if there could be some leeway in the scheme," said the letter.

The letter outlined a deal that could see staff work 36 extra days in the year rather than the previous limit of 24.

"This solution is far from ideal but is pragmatic for all," said the letter.

"The union does not favour or encourage overtime but it once again has become evident that it is a necessary resource to enable the provision of service until staff numbers are corrected.

"We have been given assurances about additional staff being made available over the coming months and resources being made available to cover for maternity leave, long-term sick leave and/or training."

Sheridan said that "members should be aware of their personal responsibility with regard to fatigue and general fitness to attend for work, especially when attending for overtime".

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