Sunday 16 December 2018

Long-running DAA pay row set for Labour Court

A draft WRC agreement hints at the strain between DAA and Siptu

Dalton Philips, DAA
Dalton Philips, DAA

Fearghal O'Connor

A last-ditch effort by DAA and Siptu to find agreement over pay at the Workplace Relations Commission ended in failure last week after the sides could not agree on productivity measures.

The sides are now facing into a likely Labour Court hearing to try and find a solution to the two-year-long dispute that has dogged the industrial relations environment at Dublin Airport.

A draft agreement had been drawn up that would have provided for an 8.5pc pay increase over four years, well below the more than 19pc cumulative increase that Siptu originally demanded and which this newspaper at the time reported would cost the company €100m.

The overall pay increase had improved by 1pc after a meeting the week before had broken down without agreement. But sources close to the talks said that DAA had attempted "at the eleventh hour" to link the final 2.75pc, payable in 2020, to a series of productivity measures. The trade union refused to agree to this.

Staff are also seeking a profit-share payment that would, if it were based on schemes at other similar organisations, be calculated as a single-digit percentage of the company's profits. The DAA annual report, released last week, showed that profit before tax had risen by 66pc to €157m as Dublin Airport boomed under new chief executive Dalton Phillips, pictured. For now, the company has offered its staff a €500 voucher. Siptu wrote to its members on Thursday to say that it had attended a "conciliation conference" at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) the day before.

"Unfortunately, we were unable to reach agreement as the company attempted to place conditions on a pay increase that the Union negotiating committee found unacceptable. On this basis, we have requested the Commission to refer our pay claim to the Labour Court and we await an update as to the status of the referral," said the memo.

A DAA spokesman declined to comment when contacted. Industrial action is not yet a prospect because the union cannot ballot its members while the process is still being dealt with by either the WRC or the Labour Court. But any ruling on the matter will need to be voted on by Siptu members, who rejected the last agreement recommended to them by their union leaders.

The unsigned WRC agreement, seen by this newspaper, contained language that hinted at the strain in the relationship between the airport authority and its biggest union. "It is accepted that a new relationship is needed between Siptu and DAA to ensure company and staff interests are progressed. Each party's preference is to conclude agreement for a period which allows for improvement of ways of working," it said.

The draft agreement went on to say that: "Each side is committed to obtain advice and to work together without delay to reach agreement on a new method of engagement and company/union working in line with best practice."

Sources close to the talks said the WRC had proposed a mediator to try and get an agreement, but that neither side could agree to the proposal.

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