The Government has urged management and staff at the Dublin Airport Authority and Aer Lingus workers to make sacrifices, compromise, and negotiate in order to prevent industrial action which could cause chaos for thousands of air travellers at the end of next month.
At the start of August the group of unions representing the 4,500 staff in both companies warned their members will begin industrial action on Sept 20 if no progress is made on their troubled pension scheme.
That scheme has a deficit of almost €750m and there are fears over its ability to pay out.
Over the weekend it emerged that the industrial action committee of Siptu, which represents thousands of the workers, had met to discuss what form the action would take.
It was reported that on Sept 20 various sections within DAA terminals in Dublin, Cork and Shannon as well as Aer Lingus employees will stage two-hour rolling strikes which may not grind operations to a halt enti-rely but will certainly cause disruptions to flight schedules.
As well as ground crew for the airline and those working in the airports, Siptu also represents a portion of the cabin crew in Aer Lingus.
Since the industrial action warning issued earlier this month came from umbrella trade union organisation, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Sept 20 action would also include members of Impact which represents the bulk of cabin crew at Aer Lingus, the Technical Electrical and Engineering Union, which represents craft workers at Dublin Airport, and the Unite trade union.
The unions have accused the companies of “failure to seriously engage on their responsibility to do anything constructive regarding the deficit”.
The shortfall in the pension scheme has been rising steadily for a number of years.
As far back as 2008, Siptu threatened industrial action in an attempt to improve its members’ pension entitlements.
Last month, DAA staff wrote to the company saying it should cover employees’ contributions until the deficit is resolved. That demand was unsuccessful.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar was yesterday asked about the strike threat at the country’s airports.
“I can understand where the Aer Lingus staff and where the airport workers are coming from,” he said.
“They’ve paid into their pensions all their lives and they’ve now found that they’re not going to be able to receive the pensions that they had hoped they would receive.”
However, the minister said the workers were “not the only ones in that boat”, pointing out that “people in the public sector have had their pensions cut or their expectations reduced, the same has applied to the self-employed and farmers and people in the private sector too”.
“So the only way we can solve the situation is by compromise on all sides, a degree of sacrifice on all sides, and by negotiations. And those talks are ongoing,” he said.
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