Wednesday 18 September 2019

Ryanair granted injunction preventing Irish-based pilots from going on strike

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Aodhan O'Faolain and Anne-Marie Walsh

Ryanair passengers may still face disruption despite a court decision to block strikes by Irish-based pilots tomorrow.

The Irish High Court has granted the airline an injunction to prevent a 48-hour stoppage by pilots going ahead from midnight tonight.

But the airline has lost a similar bid at the High Court in London to prevent strikes by its UK-based pilots on the same two days.

The British pilots’ union, Balpa, said Mrs Justice Lambert rejected Ryanair’s arguments and agreed that its industrial action ballot and procedures were lawful and so the strike can proceed.

However, it offered the airline an olive branch to avoid the need for strikes.

“Ryanair was foolish to bring this into the High Court rather than the negotiating room,” said Balpa General Secretary Brian Strutton.

“We offered to meet Ryanair management at ACAS (conciliation service) to negotiate a resolution, but instead they attempted a legal bludgeon,” he said. “That’s backfired.

“We hope that Ryanair will take up our offer of a way forward this evening so we can call off this action. We urge Ryanair to change their attitude to dealing with us, and adopt a constructive approach.”

He said in the event that the airline rejects is overture and the action goes ahead over the next two days, the union apologises to passengers.

In his ruling in the Irish High Court this morning Mr Justice Denis McDonald said that he was satisfied from the evidence that Ryanair DAC was entitled to orders against Forsa, which is the parent union of IALPA, preventing the airline pilots from striking for 48 hours commencing on midnight on August 22nd next.

The orders are to remain in place pending the full hearing of the dispute.

IALPA represents approximately 180 Dublin-based pilots who are directly employed by Ryanair, recently balloted its members who voted to go on strike in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Ryanair's action, which was opposed, was also against several pilots who are members of IALPA, including that union's president Mr Evan Cullen.

In seeking the injunction the airline, represented by Martin Hayden SC and Eoin O'Shea Bl claimed that the proposed strike breached an agreement the parties signed up to last year.

It claimed that agreement, following industrial action last July/August, was entered into following a mediation conducted by retired Workplace Relations Commission Chair Mr Kieran Mulvey.

The airline also claimed that there is no valid trade dispute between the parties.

The airline also claimed that the dates of the industrial action were chosen to cause maximum disruption to its business and coincide with strike action being taken on the same dates by Ryanair's UK-based pilots.

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

The claims are denied.

The defendants represented Marguerite Bolger SC, appearing with Jason Murray Bl said that the ballot was fully compliant with the union's own rules and Industrial Relations laws.

The union claimed it was involved in a trade dispute relating to pay with Ryanair, who it claims has failed to agree or engage with proposals it made last March.

Forsa's claims the 2018 agreement only concerns issues that arose between Ryanair and the union members in July and August 2018, and has nothing to do with the current dispute.

The union said that agreement related to specific issues including pilots grades, annual leave and base transfers.

The union said It was a fundamental role of any trade union to seek the best possible deal for its members and that is exactly what Forsa/Ialpa have sought to do.

The union said it had not engaged in any inappropriate behaviour as alleged by the airline.

The union said it regretted any disruption to the airline's customers, but said it has acted in a responsible and appropriate manner.

Ryanair welcomed the ruling and said it will come as a "huge relief" to thousands of Irish passengers and their families during the last week of the school holidays.

It said in a statement that all flights scheduled to depart tomorrow and Friday from Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports will operate as normal.

The airline said passengers should arrive at the airport two hours before their scheduled departure time.

"Ryanair calls on the Fórsa union and this small minority of very well paid Irish pilots, to return to mediation under Kieran Mulvey so that any disputes can be resolved without unnecessarily disrupting the travel plans of thousands of Irish passengers and their families," it said.

It said the "small group" of Irish pilots should explain why they are seeking 101pc increases for Ryanair captains who already earn over €172,000 a year.

It said Fórsa has agreed pay increases for Aer Lingus pilots of  9pc over three years, or an average of 3pc a year.

Fórsa said in a statement that it has informed its Ryanair pilots members that the strikes planned for tomorrow and Friday will not take place.

It said once it has the High Court ruling in writing it will consider it in detail and consult with its legal team. “Only then will Fórsa be in a position to consider its next steps,” it said.

“Fórsa is grateful to Justice McDonald and the staff of the court service for the expeditious way they have dealt with this case,” it said.

“The union believes that it would be inappropriate to comment further until Justice McDonald has made a full interlocutory ruling.”

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