Mr McCormack noted that talks were under way on the pensions issue at the LRC and asserted that Siptu had breached its “obligations pursuant to collective agreements” with the airport authority.
He cited an agreement, registered with the LRC in 2003/04, with the airport police and fire service (APFS). This provides for any disputes to first go to the LRC and then on to the Labour Court if necessary.
Any findings from that process are binding, he stated.
Mr McCormack said the agreement with the APFS provided that neither the union nor the employees should engage in a “strike, sit down, walk out, stoppage, slow down, curtailment of work or overtime for any reason during the lifetime of this agreement”.
In a letter to Siptu, Aer Lingus also strongly rejected the contention that it had reneged or breached any obligations under collective agreements.
It said the LRC process was still under way and in such circumstances it was “totally unacceptable” to take steps unilaterally to initiate industrial action.
The airline strongly contended that the issue did not involve a trade dispute at all.
Aer Lingus said it was clear that the key matter in the case arose because of the approach adopted by the Pensions Regulator with reference to the funding requirement for pension schemes.
The airline quoted a Siptu press release in which its president, Jack O’Connor, stated that “this is a unique situation where the row was not the fault of Aer Lingus, the DAA or the unions but that the blame lay with the Pensions Regulator”. He suggested the Regulator had insisted on tough new funding regulations which would have “the ridiculous and absurd effect” of forcing schemes to close instead of protecting them.
Aer Lingus argued that as it believed the row was not a trade dispute, the union and its officers and officials could not have the protections of industrial relations legislation if the dispute went ahead from Monday.
“Accordingly, we must now put you on notice that Aer Lingus will hold Siptu and all relevant officers, officials and members personally liable in respect of inevitable losses that will be sustained by Aer Lingus by reason of unlawful and unwarranted disruption to its operations caused by the purported industrial action.”
“We estimate that those losses will not be less than €2 million per day.”
Aer Lingus urged Siptu to call off the planed industrial action and to take all steps within its power to avoid the disruption and losses to the airline that would inevitably follow, particularly as the Labour Relations Commission process was still under way.