Court to rule on Ryanair pilots’ strike on Wednesday

Passengers in limbo as 48-hour Irish stoppage scheduled for Thursday and Friday

Ryanair has argued  that balloted strike action from some of their pilots is unlawful. – PA

Ryanair has argued that balloted strike action from some of their pilots is unlawful. – PA

 

The High Court will rule on Wednesday morning if Ryanair is entitled to an injunction preventing its Irish-based pilots from going on strike later this week.

Ryanair is seeking orders against Fórsa, which is the parent union of Ialpa, preventing the airline pilots from striking for 48 hours commencing at midnight on Thursday, August 22nd.

Ialpa represents some 180 Dublin-based pilots who are directly employed by Ryanair. It recently balloted its members who voted to go on strike in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Ryanair’s action, which is opposed, is also against several pilots who are members of Ialpa, including that union’s president Evan Cullen.

Following the conclusion of submissions from both parties on Tuesday evening Mr Justice Denis McDonald said he would give his decision as close to 10.30am on Wednesday as possible.

The judge, noting the issues raised in the case, said that normally such a decision by the court would take a number of days to formulate.

He said that the court had to rule as soon as possible as there were many passengers in Ireland and abroad awaiting the outcome of the application.

In seeking the injunction, the airline, represented by Martin Hayden SC and Eoin O’Shea BL, claims that the proposed strike breaches an agreement the parties signed up to last year.

It claims that agreement, reached following industrial action last July/August, was entered into following a mediation conducted by retired Workplace Relations Commission chair Kieran Mulvey.

The airline claims that there is no valid trade dispute between the parties.

No detailed proposals

Ryanair alleges that no detailed pay proposals were put to it by Fórsa in advance of the ballot or the time the strike notice was served on the airline.

The airline further claims that the union and its members are not entitled to the benefits of the 1990 Industrial Relations Acts.

The airline also claims that the dates of the industrial action were chosen to cause maximum disruption to its business and coincide with strike action being taken on the same dates by Ryanair’s UK-based pilots.

During submissions to the court on Tuesday Mr Hayden said it is also Ryanair’s case that the strike ballot is invalid because not all relevant members of the union who are directly employed by Ryanair were balloted.

Issues were also raised by the airline about the number of ballot papers issued to the union members.

The claims are denied.

The defendants, represented by Marguerite Bolger SC, appearing with Jason Murray BL, said that the ballot was fully compliant with the union’s own rules and industrial relations laws.

Counsel, noting the judge’s concerns about that particular claim by Ryanair, said it was accepted that the onus is on the union to show compliance with the rules with the ballot process.

Counsel added that the union is involved in a trade dispute relating to pay with Ryanair, who it claims has failed to agree or engage with proposals it made last March.

Fórsa claims the 2018 agreement only concerns issues that arose between Ryanair and the union members in July and August 2018, and has nothing to do with the current dispute.

The 2018 agreement, it claims, was not about pay or pay increases, was involved in a valid dispute with the union, a dispute she added that had no place in the courtroom as it was “an industrial relations matter”.

The union said that agreement related to specific issues including pilots’ grades, annual leave and base transfers.

The union said it was a fundamental role of any trade union to seek the best possible deal for its members and that is exactly what Fórsa/Ialpa have sought to do.

The union said it had not engaged in any inappropriate behaviour as alleged by the airline.

The union said it regretted any disruption to the airline’s customers, but said it has acted in a responsible and appropriate manner.

The union added that it was unfortunate that its attempts to get a good deal for its members had been met by “groundless allegations and hysterical criticisms” by Ryanair.