Sunday 15 September 2019

Ryanair asks High Court for order to prevent Irish-based pilots going on strike next week

Some Irish pilots at Ryanair have backed strike action in a row over pay (PA)
Some Irish pilots at Ryanair have backed strike action in a row over pay (PA)

Aodhan O Faolain and Ray Managh

Ryanair has asked the High Court for an order preventing its Irish based pilots from going on strike next week.

Ryanair DAC is seeking an injunction preventing the trade union Forsa, which is the parent union of IALPA, from striking for 48 hours commencing on midnight on August 22nd next in a dispute over pay and conditions.

The action is also against a number of pilots who are members of IALPA, including that union's president Mr Evan Cullen. IALPA represents approximately 180 Dublin based pilots who are directly employed by the airline, recently balloted its members who voted to go on strike.

If granted injunctions would remain in place pending the final outcome of the airline's action against the defendants.

The airline, represented in its' action by Martin Hayden SC and Eoin O'Shea Bl is also seeking a declaration from the court that Forsa's ballot for the proposed strike action and its notice of strike action served on Ryanair earlier this week was unlawful.

The airline claims that the proposed strike would be in breach of an agreement the parties agreed to following a mediation conducted by retired Workplace Relations Commission Chair Mr Kieran Mulvey in 2018.

That agreement, which the airline claims contains an agreed mechanism which it and the union would prosecute their differences, came about following industrial action by Ryanair staff in July and August of last year.

Mr Hayden said the agreement contains clear procedural requirements which must be followed in the event that either side contemplates industrial action.

The agreement requires the mediator to become involved if matters come to a head, and that the parties agreed to be bound to an independent finding by the mediator in the event of there being a deadlock between the parties.

Counsel said it is Ryanair's case that the union has breached the agreement and it should have seen the process through before threatening industrial action, balloting its members and serving the strike notice.

In a recent meeting the parties had with Mr Mulvey, counsel said the union had walked away from the mediation after stating that the process had failed.

Counsel said that there had been issues over a pay increase sought by the pilots.

Counsel said that it had asked Foras for specific details about the increase the union was seeking for its members but had not got them.

Counsel said Ryanair still "does not know" exactly what the pilots want.

The airline also claims that there is no trade dispute, nor any valid complaint about the pilot's terms and conditions of employment, between the parties and that the strike ballot is a manufactured and not a 'bona fida' dispute.

Ryanair claims there is no detailed pay proposals have been put to it by Forsa in advance of the ballot or the time the strike notice was served on the airline.  

On those grounds, the airline claims that the union and its members are not entitled to the benefits of the 1990 Industrial Relations Acts.

Ryanair also alleged that the strike ballot is invalid because not all relevant members of the union who are directly employed by Ryanair were balloted. 

The airline says that it is not possible to quantify the disruption the strike proposed will cause.  The industrial action in 2018 resulted in the cancellation of over 100 flights and disrupted the travel plans of some 18,000 Irish passengers. 

It claims that by having a strike shortly before the end of the summer holidays will cause maximum distress to Irish families, almost all of whom earn less than the €170,000 annual salaries earned by the airline's highly paid group of workers,  returning home before schools start in September.

Mr Hayden told the court that the choice of the dates by the union was deliberate as well as it being the end of the school holidays the industrial action also coincides with similar actions being taken by Ryanair pilots based in the UK.

The proposed action the airline also claims will damage Ryanair's reputation for reliability. The airline says that the status quo should be maintained and that it has successfully mediated with the union resulting in agreements in August 2018 and March 2019.

In light of the union's actions, Ryanair seeks various orders from the court, including an order that the union specifically perform the 2018 agreement, and damages.

Counsel added that Ryanair also wants the hearing of the action heard as soon as possible so its passengers can be kept fully informed of what is to happen with its scheduled flights next week. 

Permission to serve short notice of the injunction application was granted, on an ex-parte basis, by Ms Justice Carmel Stewart on Friday afternoon.

The judge, who said she did not want to comment on the merits of the case, but accepted the matter is urgent, made the application returnable to Monday of next week.

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