4,000 airport staff to vote on industrial action in pensions row
MORE than 4,000 workers at the country's main airports will vote on whether to take industrial action -- including possible strikes -- in a bid to protect their pensions.
The move comes after their unions accused Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) of failing to plug a €700m shortfall in their pension scheme.
Staff at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports will begin voting on Friday after their unions rejected a plan put forward by their employers to deal with the huge deficit.
The ballot paper says the industrial action could include strikes.
It says it is due to the employers' "failure to ensure that the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme is adequately funded in a manner which is agreed to by the majority of members".
SIPTU will send a notice to staff this morning explaining the reasons for the ballot to the 4,564 scheme members.
The 'pension update' notice warns that Aer Lingus and the DAA are not prepared to make any lump sum injections into the pension scheme.
It says it has rejected their joint proposal to freeze the pension scheme and pass its assets to the National Treasury Management Agency. The agency would then issue bonds to fund drastically reduced pensions.
The notice says a meeting of their unions, SIPTU, Mandate, UNITE and the TEEU, was unanimously in support of a ballot for industrial action.
"If we secure this mandate it will display and announce the seriousness we attach to the pension problem," it says.
The union said it wants the employers to cover the workers' pension contributions from now on as staff felt they were "throwing bad money after good". It also wants them to inject additional funds into the pension scheme.
"Both companies have indicated they have no intention of putting any monies into resolving the deficit in the scheme," said SIPTU sector organiser Dermot O'Loughlin.
"Historically, their contributions have been excessively low and they have a contractual and moral obligation to provide significant funds to offset the deficit, and have substantial cash balances.
"It simply isn't acceptable that two large companies are going to abandon the pension of their workforces."
The ballot will continue until July 30. Industrial action can be taken seven days afterwards.
Aer Lingus said it is "engaged in a process under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission" to resolve the difficulties in the scheme.
"We remain committed to finding an appropriate solution to the scheme's funding shortfall," said a spokesman.