Airport chiefs agree to meet union over dispute on pensions
MANAGEMENT at the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) will meet trade union SIPTU next Wednesday to work out a roadmap for concluding talks on resolving the pension issue.
Unions and management at the DAA and Aer Lingus have been trying to address a €700m-plus deficit at the Irish Aviation Superannuation Scheme (IASS) that serves more than 14,000 former and current workers at the two companies.
SIPTU has served notice of industrial action on Aer Lingus, with a two-hour work stoppage planned for November 19.
Talks between the airline and unions at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) collapsed last week. SIPTU has accused Aer Lingus of failing to engage meaningfully in efforts to solve the pension problem.
But Aer Lingus said it was "at a loss" as to why it had been served with notice of action.
The airline said LRC talks had been "overshadowed and hampered" by claims made by unions that a proposal targeting "85pc of final incomes" had been agreed with the DAA. Unions have asked Aer Lingus to match that proposal.
"It has been confirmed to Aer Lingus directly by the DAA that the proposal under discussion with union groups does not target any such pension coverage level," the airline said this week.
The most likely resolution will be that the current IASS scheme is frozen and that Aer Lingus and the DAA establish their own separate defined contribution schemes for staff.
Such schemes make it impossible to say precisely what a person's entitlement will be upon retirement.
SIPTU has said it wants "reasonable and fair" pensions for its members.
"We believe this can be done by a mixture of freezing the disastrous current pension scheme and the establishment of a new defined contribution scheme going forward," said sector organiser Dermot O'Loughlin.
Both the DAA and Aer Lingus have stressed that they have no legal obligation to inject money into the pension scheme to wipe out or reduce the deficit.
Unless the issue is resolved, the benefits of IASS members retiring in future will be severely cut.
SIPTU said yesterday that it had approached the DAA to set up next Wednesday's meeting on the issue.
"The DAA have clarified that the financial understandings arrived at our meeting of the October 15 still stand subject to securing secondary items under discussion," the union said.
"The purpose of the meeting on November 7 is for them to restate these understandings formally to us and to prepare a concluding schedule for the pension negotiations."
The DAA declined to elaborate on the upcoming meeting.
"DAA continues to engage in discussions with trade union representatives, under the aegis of the LRC, to seek to address pension issues," the authority said in a statement.