Endgame in sight in aviation pension dispute
AFTER MUCH posturing and many sessions at the Labour Relations Commission since January, we might finally be moving towards the endgame in the dispute over a funding solution for the joint Aer Lingus-Dublin Airport Authority-SR Technics pension scheme, which is underwater to the tune of about €700 million.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has put the LRC on notice that, if no “serious progress” is made to resolve the issue by September 20th, industrial action will commence.
Siptu has indicated that its action will begin on that date. This opens up the prospect of major transport disruption at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports.
The LRC is now expected to re-engage with the various parties within the next two to three weeks.
These negotiations will be a fine balancing act for union leaders. Protecting pension entitlements is one of the key priorities of trade unions in the current economic climate.
Yet they must be conscious that they will get short shrift from the travelling public and from the business community if airports close and flights are cancelled.
Industrial action would also provide Ryanair with a platform to hammer the unions and what it considers to be pampered public servants.
Finding a solution won’t be easy and it will inevitably have financial consequences for both scheme members, and for the three employers.
One solution that has been floated is for the existing joint scheme to close, with sovereign annuities used to help fund the liabilities for retired and departed staff. Current employees would be hived off into new schemes, most likely with reduced benefits and higher contributions to boot. And the employers will have to cough up to help close the funding gap.
Ictu’s deadline for industrial action might just be a negotiating tactic to speed things along. If nothing else, it should focus minds on finding a solution to this issue, and soon.