Air traffic control staff crisis is ‘major threat’ to services at Dublin Airport

Union warns of ‘disruption’

Dublin Airport© Getty Images/EyeEm

Fearghal O'Connor

Trade unions representing Dublin-based air traffic controllers have written to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan demanding he halt the imminent splitting of the Irish Aviation Authority – because of major concerns over staffing and overtime.

A haemorrhaging of Irish ATC staff to better-paid roles abroad is partly blamed for a crisis that unions claim threatens massive disruption, curtails Dublin’s new €320m runway, and poses safety risks.

Controllers are also seeking a €160m cash injection to secure their pensions and the return of a 10pc pay cut imposed during the Covid crisis before the IAA is split at midnight on Sunday.

Fórsa’s ATC branch warned management in recent weeks that the reliance on overtime to keep the service running was “dangerous”.

Massive queues to get inside Dublin Airport terminals in May 2022 due to staff shortages

Dublin controllers “are simply exhausted” it said, in a submission to a dispute resolution process. The issue, unless remedied, “may result in significant delays in transatlantic traffic transiting enroute airspace and potential flight cancellations”, it said. “The interdependencies of staffing levels, fatigue, workload and safety cannot be overstated.”

The IAA said safety was its “core priority” and it had “robust fatigue and safety management systems, policies and procedures in place”.

Using overtime to keep airspace open was standard practice, and “if there is not enough cover for a controller to take a mandatory fatigue break, then the IAA will temporarily suspend aircraft movements through that airspace sector to ensure safety is maintained.”

Staff “refused to honour agreements, which has resulted in controllers not agreeing to work overtime to cover for unplanned absences,” IAA said.

The IAA had signalled its intention to work with the union, “but for such discussions to be productive and meaningful, adherence to agreements including protecting service continuity must be honoured”.