Search-and-rescue helicopter pilots to take industrial action

Crews working for Irish Coast Guard say service is over-reliant on overtime

  Irish Coast Guard search-and-rescue pilots will begin a work-to-rule on Thursday. File photograph: Marc O’Sullivan

Irish Coast Guard search-and-rescue pilots will begin a work-to-rule on Thursday. File photograph: Marc O’Sullivan

 

Helicopter pilots working for the Irish Coast Guard search-and-rescue service are to take industrial action from midday on Thursday in a dispute over rosters.

The service is operated under contract by the company CHC, which has its headquarters in Canada.

Members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa) met management at the company on Monday but said no progress was made on the rostering issue.

Ialpa, a branch of the Fórsa trade union, issued notice of industrial action to CHC last week. A ballot of Ialpa members at CHC overwhelmingly supported industrial action.

Fórsa official Brendan O’Hanlon said that from Thursday the pilots would engage in a work-to-rule action which meant they would work a fixed pattern roster of six days of work (containing three 24-hour shifts) followed by three calendar days free of all duties and obligations to CHC.

“The fixed pattern roster will continue indefinitely until CHC management and Ialpa agree a resolution to the issue. The ballot was called after repeated attempts to convince CHC management of their obligations contained in the Pilot Services Agreement,” Mr O’Hanlon said.

He said the rostering issues had been an “ongoing problem” for 18 months.

“The service is over-reliant on overtime in order to maintain the required level of service, and has survived for a prolonged period on the goodwill and tolerance of the pilots themselves. This is simply unsustainable,” he said.

CHC has said the Irish search and rescue service requires a full complement of 37 pilots, which it has. It has also said it is committed to continuing to engage in dialogue with the union.

The service is operated under a €500 million 10-year State contract. There are four rescue helicopters, based at Shannon, Dublin, Waterford and Sligo.