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Relief as Aer Lingus staff call off strike

Air travellers are breathing a sigh of relief after a planned strike that threatened to disrupt the plans of up to 2,000 passengers next Monday was called off.

The two-hour work stoppage at Aer Lingus had been due to take place from 10am.

But a meeting of SIPTU union representatives decided to call off the strike after clarifications from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and employers' group IBEC on their plan to progress talks on a €748m hole in a staff pension scheme.

Aer Lingus, which had been drawing up contingency plans for Monday, including the merging of flights, confirmed it will now operate a full schedule. It apologised to customers for "the uncertainty of recent days".

SIPTU sector organiser Dermot O'Loughlin said a committee of union representatives decided in a majority vote to call off the industrial action.

However, he rejected a statement from the airline that any improvement in pension funding must be made up elsewhere.

"The committee is determined that it will not engage in any resolution to the current crisis in the pension scheme at Aer Lingus and the DAA (Dublin Airport Authority) that involves our members being forced to accept productivity measures in return for their pension entitlements," he warned.

Some 2,500 cabin crew, ground staff and administration workers were due to walk off the job at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports.

It follows a long-running dispute over how to tackle the massive deficit in the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme which covers workers in Aer Lingus and the DAA.

In a statement, the airline welcomed the decision to withdraw notice of action.

"The company is now proceeding towards finding an appropriate solution to the pension issues and is immediately re-engaging with the technical group of actuarial and legal advisors and with the Labour Relations Commission (LRC)," it said.

The plan put forward by IBEC and ICTU will see chief executive of the LRC, Kieran Mulvey, report to both sides and outline how he believes the row can be resolved.

Both parties will then consider his report and state their positions.Where there are outstanding matters, both sides are "encouraged" to refer those matters to the Labour Court for an interim recommendation.

Irish Independent