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Decision due on Friday's airport strike

A JUDGE will today decide on whether to grant injunctions blocking this Friday's four-hour work stoppage at the country's three main airports.

The proposed industrial action, organised by the trade union Siptu, could cause travel chaos for St Patrick's weekend travellers and would involve stoppages at Dublin, Cork and Shannon between 5am-9am.

It follows a long-running dispute over cuts in pension benefits for Aer Lingus and Dublin Airport Authority employees.

In High Court proceedings against Siptu, Michael O'Leary's Ryanair and the DAA have asked the High Court to grant injunctions, pending the outcome of the full hearing of the dispute, preventing the industrial action going ahead.

They have argued that the strike "is illegal" and is not "a valid trade dispute".

Both claim the stoppage will cause havoc and maximum disruption to thousands of passengers. The action will effectively close down the airports on one of the busiest weekends of the year, costing millions. The applications are opposed by Siptu.

Richard Kean SC, for Siptu, said the stoppage arises out of "a bona fide trade dispute".

URGENCY

Following the conclusion of submissions from both sides yesterday, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said he wanted to give the matter "some thought". Given the urgency of the case he would give his ruling today.

In February, union members at Aer Lingus and the DAA voted for industrial action over a €780m deficit in the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme, which is jointly operated by Aer Lingus and the DAA.

Separate negotiations between unions, the DAA, and Aer Lingus ended without a resolution late last month.

Yesterday, Mark Connaughton SC, for the DAA, said it was his client's case the proposed strike was illegal because it did not arise out of a valid trade dispute.

Counsel also said the ballot of Siptu workers was "flawed" as the union had not complied with its own rules.

The DAA's position was fully supported by Ryanair, who the court heard, would have 93 flights affected by the proposed stoppage.

Martin Hayden SC, for Ryanair, remarked that, unusually, his client was "in total agreement with the DAA".

Counsel said Ryanair was "caught in the crossfire" of a dispute involving other parties.

Counsel accused Siptu of abandoning industrial relations mechanisms set up by the state and said it had reverted back to "Victorian-era tactics".

ANDREW LYNCH: PAGE 17


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