Thursday 14 November 2019

Judge to issue decision tomorrow on airport unions' work-stoppage bid

Traffic statistics released today
Traffic statistics released today

Aodhan O'Faolain

A JUDGE will give his decision tomorrow on whether to grant injunctions blocking this Friday's four-hour work stoppage at the country's three main airports.

The proposed industrial action organised by the trade union Siptu is set to involve stoppages at Dublin, Cork and Shannon between 5am and 9am. It follows a long-running dispute over cuts in pension benefits for Aer Lingus and Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) employees.

In High Court proceedings against Siptu, Ryanair and the DAA have asked the High Court to grant injunctions, pending the outcome of the full hearing of the dispute, preventing the proposed industrial action going ahead.

They have argued that the strike "is illegal" and is not "a valid trade dispute," as defined by the 1990 Industrial Relations Act.

Both claim the stoppage will  "cause havoc" and "maximum disruption" to thousands of passengers. The action will effectively close down the airport on one of the busiest weekends of the year, costing "millions of Euro."

The applications are opposed by Siptu.

Richard Kean SC, for Siptu, said the stoppage arises out of  "a bona fida trade dispute" concerning the pension rights of workers.

Both the DAA and the Ryanair's applications for injunctions were misconceived, counsel said.

Following the conclusion of submissions from both sides yesterday, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said he wanted to give the matter "some thought".  Given the urgency of the case he would give his ruling tomorrow.

In February, union members at Aer Lingus and the DAA voted for industrial action over a €780 million deficit in the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme (IASS), which is jointly operated by Aer Lingus and the DAA.

Separate negotiations between unions, the DAA, and Aer Lingus ended without a resolution late last month.

Siptu notified the DAA, Cork and Shannon airports and Aer Lingus that its members planned to stop work on March 14.

Today, Mark Connaughton SC, for the DAA, said it was his client's case the proposed strike was illegal because it did not arise out of a valid trade dispute. Counsel said the dispute, which involves other parties, was essentially one with the pension scheme trustee.

Counsel also said the ballot of Siptu workers was "flawed" as the union had not complied with its own rules.

The DAA's position was fully supported by Ryanair, who the court heard would have 93 flights affected by the proposed stoppage.

Martin Hayden SC, for Ryanair, remarked that, unusually, his client was "in total agreement with the DAA" on an issue.

Counsel said Ryanair was "caught in the crossfire" of a dispute involving other parties.

Counsel accused Siptu of abandoning industrial relations mechanisms set up by the state and said it had reverted back to "Victorian-era tactics."

Irish Independent

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