Siptu ‘wrong’ to proceed with planned strike action at airports - Varadkar

Union says pension committees back strike action planned for next week

Siptu is wrong to go ahead with its planned airport strike next week given the union had agreed to negotiations Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has said.

Siptu is wrong to go ahead with its planned airport strike next week given the union had agreed to negotiations Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has said.

Tue, Mar 4, 2014, 18:30

Siptu is wrong to go ahead with its planned airport strike next week given the union had agreed to negotiations Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has said.

Separately the Dublin Airport Authority said it was “astonished and taken aback” by Siptu’s decision to proceed with its planned industrial action at Dublin and Cork airports on Friday of next week - in advance of the busy St Patrick’s weekend - despite a Government-sponsored initiative to resolve the current row over pensions.

Siptu said that its pension committees at Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority yesterday decided unanimously to co-operate with the four- person expert panel appointed by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to investigate the pensions dispute at the companies.

However it also said that committees had also decided that industrial action planned for Friday, 14th March, will proceed.

Last week Siptu announced a four- hour work stoppage at Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports would take place from 5am to 9am on Friday, March 14th.

Mr Varadkar called on Siptu to reconsider its position on the planned strike action.

“I think it is welcome they are going to engage with the expert panel but I don’t think it’s right that they would continue to strike while they’re in negotiations. That really isn’t what happens normally in industrial relations,” he said.

The Minister said the public “certainly would be very unhappy” if a strike was to go ahead even though an industrial relations intervention was underway. He asked the union to rethink the decision and call off the strike.

“My message is to ask them to think again to reconsider whether they want to go ahead with this strike targeting tourists and Irish citizens over st Patrick’s day. “

Mr Varadkar said there was a a risk that the action would damage Irish tourism.

“I do know some of the airlines have said to me they have started to see bookings fall off for that period and of course some flights have already been rescheduled. I really don’t think there is anything to be achieved by this, it’s going to cost the airports money, it’s going to cost the airlines money, and it’s going to cost the people who go out on strike money.”

The Dublin Airport Authority said its position from the outset had been that the threat of industrial action by Siptu had been both “unnecessary and unwarranted”.

It said that given the establishment of a high level independent body to examine the pension issue, Siptu’s decision to continue with industrial action also flew in the face of the position of the overall Irish Congress of Trade Unions on on this matter.

The DAA said it would continue to discuss the implications of Siptu’s decision with its airline customers and apologised to passengers for the inconvenience that the union’s “ unacceptable action will cause”.

The trade union Impact said it would be counting a ballot of managment and administrative staff in Aer Lingus and the airport authorities tomorrow.

However it said it did not envisage serving notice of industrial action while the expert group process was underway.

Cabin crew represented by Impact last week decided not to ballot on the penion row as they believed that that members faced other issues at the airline -- understood to be rostering issues -- that could require a vote on industrial action.

Pilots are not involved in the current dispute over pensions because they have a separate pension scheme.

The dispute centres on the restructuring of the joint Aer Lingus/Dublin Airport Authority pension scheme, which has a deficit of around € 780m.

Employees fear that their benefits will be significantly reduced as a result.

Aer Lingus said that its operations and planning teams were currently putting solutions in place aimed at minimising the effects of the Siptu strike on its customers.

The airline said these solutions would include the re-timing of some flights to avoid the four- hour strike period.

“We plan to commence communicating directly with customers tomorrow, Wednesday 5th March, about the options available.”