Aer Lingus regional pilots began voting on a possible strike on Thursday, accusing their employer of failing to enter collective bargaining talks.
Members of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (IALPA), affiliated to trade union Fórsa, at Emerald Airlines, which flies Aer Lingus’s regional network, have been seeking to meet management to discuss pay and working conditions.
Owen Kelly, IALPA principal officer, confirmed that the union was “balloting for industrial action, up to and including strike action” so pilots could send Emerald a clear message.
“The company does not recognise the trade union as the representative negotiating body for its pilots,” he said.
Voting began on Thursday and will continue until May 18th, raising the possibility that the union could serve strike notice on the airline ahead of the June bank holiday weekend.
IALPA officer Daniel Langan said Emerald’s refusal to engage with the union had surprised pilots.
“Other airlines that previously refused to engage with unions are now happy to negotiate with them to achieve the certainty and stability of a collective labour agreement,” he added.
Mr Langan accused the airline of being out of touch. “This is why this ballot became necessary,” he added.
Emerald chief executive Keith Butler said it is already dealing with pilots through its own internal employee representative group, rendering the union’s action unnecessary.
“We are surprised by IALPA’s unnecessary developments as we are continuing to progress positively with our internal discussions with pilot employee representatives,” he said.
Mr Butler added that the company was pleased with the progress that Emerald was making through this approach.
He said this had resulted in Emerald workers winning significant improvements in pay and conditions within one year of the airline beginning operations.
“We continue to maintain an active and healthy dialogue directly with all of our employees including pilot employee representatives,” Mr Butler said.
IALPA told members it was in formal dispute with Emerald midway through last month after failing to get a formal response to requests to negotiate on pilots’ pay, pensions and working conditions.
While there was communication between the pair, Emerald did not formally agree to the union’s request to meet to begin collective bargaining.
IALPA represents many of the airline’s 140 or so pilots. Emerald took over the Aer Lingus regional franchise last year and flies mainly between Ireland, Britain and France. It has bases in Dublin and Belfast.