Legal action could affect union’s right to strike

The pension debacle at Aer Lingus rumbles on. However, this saga has taken a new twist that has far reaching ramifications for the trade union movement that will threaten their relevance.

Aer Lingus is to sue Siptu for damages arising from the four hour strike that was called off on March 14.

Industrial action is the currency of any union. This democratic right of workers to withdraw their labour in a legitimate trade dispute over pay and conditions of employment is universally recognised in international law and in treaties and conventions. The Industrial Relations Acts promulgates this into Irish law. Industrial action is the course of last resort for unions when negotiations reach an impasse and talks break down. Such actions are only sanctioned after exhaustive consideration of all other options, including referral to the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court.

If Aer Lingus were successful that would signal the beginning of the end of unions. Last year the Irish Congress of Trade Unions commemorated the centenary of the 1913 Lockout with great fanfare. Now they face into an uncertain future. To prevent extinction, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions will have to coordinate a swift response to the threat of legal action that threatens to abolish the right to withdraw labour in legitimate disputes.

Killian Brennan

Malahide Road

Dublin 17

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