Tourism chiefs today urged Aer Lingus pilots to call off a two-day strike planned for next week, branding it a crude tactic.
Some 480 staff at the troubled airline vowed to walk out on midnight next Monday, causing chaos at home and abroad, in protest at pay and conditions being offered at the airline’s new Belfast base.
And as the row over Aer Lingus’s plan to abandon the Shannon-Heathrow route in favour of flights from the north, the airline’s rival and major shareholder Ryanair uncharacteristically offered to work with the Government and trade unions to reverse the decision.
Budget airline chief Michael O’Leary, a 25% shareholder in Aer Lingus, called for a voting pact at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to force a rethink of the Shannon pull-out.
“Ryanair has asked Aer Lingus to call an EGM and we will be asking the trade unions and Bertie Ahern’s Government to support this motion calling for Shannon’s four daily flights to Heathrow to be maintained,” Mr O’Leary said.
Aer Lingus’s Shannon pull-out has provoked fury among business, tourist, trade union and religious leaders in the west of the country, who say the region will be devastated by the move.
Minister for Defence and local TD for Limerick East Willie O’Dea also called for a rethink.
But management now face added headaches of strike action and prospects of a bitter EGM.
The Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC), however, praised Aer Lingus and said walk-outs would serve no purpose.
“Strike action is a very crude instrument in any industrial relations dispute and serves no purpose other than to seriously damage the company and Irish tourism at a most difficult time,” ITIC chief Eamonn McKeon said.