Dempsey to urge 'no strike' clause for controllers
TRANSPORT Minister Noel Dempsey has backed the insertion of a "no strike" clause in the contracts of the 300 air traffic controllers who brought the country's airports to a standstill for four hours yesterday.
He told the Dail that the "disproportionate" action had caused disruption to passengers and "reputational damage" to the country.
"If this disproportionate type of response to an industrial relations issue is going to be a feature of industrial relations in this country, then every option has to be looked at.
"It's something I will be raising in the first instance with my colleagues in Government," he said.
There is already a no-strike clause in the contracts of essential public service workers, such as gardai, firefighters and members of the Defence Forces.
Mr Dempsey said he had been speaking to a businessman who had spent a lot of time bringing investors into the country -- and who had been forced to tell a group of them yesterday that their trip was cancelled.
"I'm not saying the business is lost but it certainly doesn't create the right impression of the country," he said.
Mr Dempsey made his comments after both Fine Gael transport spokesman Fergus O'Dowd and communications spokesman Simon Coveney had made strong calls for a no-strike clause.
Mr O'Dowd described the air traffic controllers' strike as an "act of economic sabotage", while Mr Coveney said he was incensed by what had happened in the airports.
"We have enough obstacles in our country at the moment without 300 people deciding to shut down Ireland for four hours," he said.
The air traffic controllers say their strike was in response to the suspension of a number of members by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) for refusing to co-operate with new technology, while the IAA says it is related to a dispute over pay and pensions.
Mr Dempsey called for the air traffic controllers and the IAA to use the Labour Court to resolve their differences.
But he placed the responsibility on the air traffic controllers, who he said were a small body of "well-paid people".
"Let's not be dressing it up in any other way. It is an unnecessary action. Let's cut out the nonsense about this," he said.