Aer Lingus staff to strike next month over pension deadlock
AER Lingus passengers face travel chaos next month and over the busy Christmas period following the collapse of talks between the airline and its main unions.
SIPTU organiser Dermot O'Loughlin said industrial action at the state airline is "now inevitable" after talks between both sides over a €750m deficit in the Aer Lingus/ Dublin Airport Authority pension scheme broke down at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC). He said officials from SIPTU representing ground staff and the IMPACT trade union, representing cabin crew, will meet with workplace representatives at lunchtime on Tuesday.
They will serve notice of industrial action and outline what form the action will take.
However, he warned that it could cause severe disruption to Aer Lingus passengers at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports in the coming weeks, starting in early November.
"This is going to be a serious industrial dispute," he told the Irish Independent.
The action will be ongoing in the lead-up to and including Christmas, he warned.
"It's going to be ongoing until this issue is resolved," he said.
The action is likely to take the form of a series of work stoppages ranging from one hour to 24-hour-long work stoppages.
IMPACT said its members are prepared to down tools as well until the dispute is resolved.
"Industrial action is the action of last resort but it would seem that we've gotten to the point that because the company is refusing to go to the Labour Court, it does seem highly likely that industrial action will take place," he said.
SIPTU, representing 2,764 Aer Lingus workers, excluding pilots, deferred threatened strike action earlier this month to allow negotiations on the pensions issue to take place at the LRC. However, those talks ended when the LRC indefinitely adjourned the talks over the deficit in the airline's defined benefit pension scheme known as the Irish Aviation Superannuation Scheme (IASS).
The unions said the action is the final straw after Aer Lingus refused to attend hearings at the Labour Court.
But in a statement issued following the adjournment at the LRC, Aer Lingus said: "We continue to seek to achieve a fair outcome that improves the pension prospects of affected IASS members in a way that will balance the interests of all parties, including shareholders.
"Aer Lingus remains available to resume discussions with the union groups in order to reach a solution and believes that the LRC is the appropriate forum in which to achieve this solution."
An Aer Lingus spokesman said that while talks at the LRC were going nowhere, the company is not in a position to attend the Labour Court where the matter could be determined through arbitration.
"We believe that the LRC is the proper forum for that to be resolved," he said.