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Pilots’ union accuses Aer Lingus of bidding to undermine its negotiating position on pay rise

Labour Court to hear this week from both sides in long-running pay dispute

The trade union representing Aer Lingus pilots has accused the airline of bidding to weaken its negotiating position ahead of a scheduled hearing on a pay dispute at the Labour Court on Monday.

The Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) is seeking pay increases of more than 20 per cent from Aer Lingus in a row that has remained deadlocked since January.

Mark Tighe, the union’s president, accuses management of attempting to weaken Ialpa’s negotiating position in a letter to members sent as the sides prepare for a Labour Court hearing on the dispute.

His letter notes that Aer Lingus has written to union members individually about the dispute in a “tactic that will not work with our united pilot body”.


He adds that the union’s executive will continue to seek a basic pay increase that reflects sharp rises in the cost of living and rates in other European airlines.

Pilots rejected an 8.5 per cent increase offered by an internal Aer Lingus pay tribunal earlier this year. Their union says they have not had a salary increase since 2019 while the cost of living has risen 19 per cent over the past five years.

Aer Lingus did not comment at the weekend, but rejects the union’s position and argues that pilots’ pay is ahead of that of rival carriers.

Its owner, International Airlines’ Group (IAG) is likely to allocate new aircraft originally earmarked for the Irish carrier to other companies while the dispute continues.

Mr Tighe’s letter states that Aer Lingus’ predicted profit growth will allow the airline to secure new aircraft while offering pilots a meaningful pay increase.

“Ialpa looks forward to presenting our case in the Labour Court where a comprehensive document was submitted detailing pay increases in the general workforce nationally as well as the British and European pilot market,” he says.

Internal union documents show that low-cost carrier EasyJet agreed a 15 per cent increase in all variable pay with the British Airline Pilots’ Association backdated to April 1st as well as other benefits.

Taking all these into account, the British union calculates that this amounts to a 21.4 per cent compound increase.

The documents maintain that British carrier Virgin Atlantic has agreed a minimum average pay increase of 29.1 per cent.

Aer Lingus says that its pilots are better paid than many of its rivals. Internal scales show that salaries start at €59,000 a year for co-pilots and go up to €185,000 for captains.

Ialpa argues that the airline has failed to take into account the contribution its members made to keeping the company afloat when Government pandemic curbs grounded flying.

The union estimates that pilots took an effective 70 per cent pay cut, although management says that the reduction in the basic rate was 50 per cent.

Aer Lingus also holds that in 2019 it allowed extra flexibility on leave during the summer – when the airline is busiest – that the union agreed should be taken into account when the Aer Lingus pay tribunal next awarded increases.

Talks aimed at resolving the dispute ahead of this week’s Labour Court hearing failed to make progress earlier this month. The sides also met at the Workplace Relations Commission earlier this year.

The airline wanted to end the dispute by the end of this month to secure the first of six new Airbus jets earmarked by IAG for the company. The aircraft was scheduled to begin flying in September.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas