Aer Lingus talks on industrial action unlikely for days

Pilots plan to begin a strict work to rule from next Wednesday as union negotiators return to flying duties

Aer Lingus staff negotiators, who are also pilots, have returned to flying duties. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Talks that could avert industrial action at Aer Lingus next week cannot start for several days as union negotiators returned to their normal flying duties on Wednesday.

The Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa), part of trade union Fórsa, notified Aer Lingus this week that members would start a strict work to rule from Wednesday June, 26th in their pursuit of a 24 per cent pay rise, creating possible disruption for passengers.

While both sides say they are willing to re-enter talks, the union’s negotiators were due to resume normal duties on Wednesday, and were expected to be occupied for several days.

This will limit the time the sides have to reach any sort of agreement that could halt a work to rule and any subsequent impact on holidaymakers, which could include delayed or cancelled flights.


Ialpa figures blame a shortage of pilots at the airline for this. Members sacrifice a day’s leave a-year so its officers can engage in talks with Aer Lingus, but officials say the shortage means its negotiators have to fly anyway.

The company firmly rejects this. Donal Moriarty, chief corporate affairs officer, noted this week that it had hired 180 pilots in the last 18 months, from 4,800 applicants. It also took on 18 cadets, coveted positions for which 6,000 people applied.

Aer Lingus wants the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), part of the State’s system for resolving industrial disputes, to host talks.

Pilots are unwilling to involve the commission or any third party as their union maintains that such steps so far have only produced proposals that its executive and members have rejected.

Ialpa last month turned down a Labour Court recommendation that it accept 9.25 per cent pay rises while returning to the WRC to resolve several deadlocked issues. Negotiations at the commission had earlier failed to resolve the row.

Earlier this year, members voted against a company pay tribunal offer of 8.5 per cent, worth 12.25 per cent when the cost of extra flexibility on summer leave was included.

Ialpa is seeking a 23.88 per cent pay rise to compensate for cost of living rises. The company says this is untenable. It wants more productivity, including reductions in summer leave and some time off provisions before increasing any existing offer.

Observers warn that attitudes on both sides hardened over the last week. The Labour Court last month noted that the gap between the pair was “significant”.

Meanwhile, Aer Lingus has pledged to begin communicating with passengers in advance of next week’s planned work to rule which the union says will last indefinitely.

Ialpa’s notice also reserves pilots’ right to strike if the dispute escalates. Its president, captain Mark Tighe, warned this week that Aer Lingus management needed to change its position on pay to avoid this.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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