The strike that threatened to ground Aer Arann flights next week has been averted after the company and its pilots' representatives agreed a deal on pay and bonuses yesterday.
Pilots at the airline served it with strike notice this week after an independent pay tribunal failed to resolve a dispute over their pay, which was cut in 2009 when the company ran into financial trouble .
The strike would have grounded Aer Lingus’s regional flights in Ireland and Britain, which Aer Arann provides under a franchise from the bigger airline, over four days next week.
However, following talks that began on Thursday night, both sides confirmed yesterday they had reached a compromise that would avert the strike and allow Aer Arann’s flights go ahead as scheduled next week.
It is understood a key part of the deal was a committment by the company to pay loyalty bonuses to pilots, allowing them to claw back some of what they lost through a pay cut and pay freeze over the past four years.
The deal proposes to pay the bonuses over a period of about 10 months. The pilots argue the concessions they have made to the company since 2009 have left them down 30 per cent on what they would otherwise be earning. The proposals will allow them to make up about one-third of that difference.
An Aer Arann spokesman said the deal ensured the company's principle that core pay would not be reviewed until it reaches profitability next year is "enshrined in the agreement".
The two sides have agreed to reconvene an independent tribunal to review pilots’ basic pay. That will begin its work in July next year and report by the following October. There is also a committment to re-introduce increments suspended in 2008.
Trade union Impact and its local branch, the Irish Airline Pilots’s Association, will recommend the proposals “strongly” to members when they put them to a ballot.
As a consequence, next week's strike will not go ahead. A ballot of Aer Lingus pilots, who were being asked to support Aer Arann crew, has also been halted.
Aer Arann welcomed the news in a statement and confirmed that services on all its 27 routes would now operate as normal. The strike had been scheduled to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 20th and 21st, and Saturday and Sunday, August 24th and 25th.
The dispute developed from a similar row last year which also brought the airline’s pilots to the brink of industrial action. At that point, the sides agreed to refer the pay issue to an independent tribunal.
However, the tribunal, set up this year under the chairmanship of Kevin Foley of the Labour Relations Commission, failed to resolve the issue and it ended with both sides claiming the other had reneged on terms of the earlier deal.
The airline’s only routes are the regional services it operates for Aer Lingus in Ireland and Britain. It employs 100 pilots whose pay scale begins at €41,300 for a newly-recruited first officer to between €65,000 and €81,000 for captains.