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Transport Minister Varadkar calls for agreement before airports strike over pension

TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar has called on all parties to reach agreement before a strike grounds operations at the country's main airports.

Passengers have been warned they face disruption on Monday when staff at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports stage rolling work stoppages over a pensions row.

Aer Lingus has threatened to sue Siptu, its officials and members for two million euro a day for losses, while Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) will seek an injunction against the action at the High Court on Friday.

Mr Varadkar urged stakeholders in the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme to renew their efforts to reach agreement.

Talks aimed at resolving the dispute at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) have been continuing since January.

"Minister Varadkar, who has been in regular contact with the stakeholders, said he is encouraging them to use the State machinery to resolve the current difficulties regarding the pension scheme," his spokesman said.

"The minister said a renewed focus is necessary in order to avoid the proposed industrial action on Monday, which would cause huge inconvenience to the travelling public."

The dispute centres on the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme, a pension pot jointly operated by DAA, Aer Lingus and SR Technics, which left Ireland in recent years.

The scheme has about 15,000 members but was in deficit by some €700m at the end of 2011.

Unions want Aer Lingus and the DAA to make significant investments to close the deficit in the fund.

Other unions involved in the dispute include Impact, Unite, Mandate and the TEEU, but they have not served notice of industrial action.

DAA maintains the stoppages are unwarranted while the industrial relations machinery of the state is fully engaged with this issue.

It is taking its court case amid claims some members, including fire, police and search units, cannot take industrial action because of existing agreements.

Elsewhere Aer Lingus said it has not breached collective agreements and warned it will hold Siptu and all relevant officers, officials and members personally liable in respect of the losses sustained if industrial action goes ahead.

The move could financially cripple Siptu, which has vowed to proceed with the action as planned.