Labour Court considers recommendations in Aer Lingus pilots dispute

The Labour Court is considering recommendations in the dispute between Aer Lingus management and its pilots, as the airline announced further flight cancellations.

The recommendations from the industrial disputes body is expected to take several days.

Aer Lingus has said a further 76 additional flights will be cancelled between next Monday and Wednesday as the pay dispute between the airline and the pilots rumbles on.

The airline has been cancelling flights in batches during the pilots’ indefinite work-to-rule, which began last Wednesday, in an effort to protect services from the “highly disruptive” industrial action.

Donal Moriarty, the chief corporate affairs officer at Aer Lingus, thanked the court for conducting “a comprehensive” hearing, and said it was “an important step” in the dispute.

“The court is now considering what the parties had to say and will make its recommendation in due course, and Aer Lingus will await that recommendation.”

He said he wouldn’t discuss what was said in the hearing out of respect for the court.

“Aer Lingus is hopeful that the intervention of the court will be helpful in ultimately getting a resolution to this dispute.

“So we would remain hopeful that that can happen and certainly today was an important step in that regard.”

Aer Lingus industrial action
An empty Aer Lingus check-in desk area at Dublin Airport as Aer Lingus pilots began an eight-hour strike (Evan Treacy/PA)

Captain Mark Tighe, president of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (Ialpa), said he remained hopeful of a resolution and would be balloting their members on the recommendations.

Ialpa members rejected a previous interim Labour Court recommendation for pay increases of 9.25% last month.

“Corporate greed cannot be allowed to go on like this,” Mr Tighe said.

He said there would be no escalation of industrial action while the Labour Court considers its recommendations, but said earlier in the week if these rounds of talks fail, it will consider an escalation.

The talks at the industrial dispute body are the latest attempt to bring the two sides together to hammer out a resolution.

After facilitating eight hours of discussions on Monday, the Labour Court decided to host a formal meeting on Wednesday, after which it will issue recommendations.

Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association president Captain Mark Tighe
Ialpa president Captain Mark Tighe said the union had asked the Labour Court to consider how a reasonable claim protects workers from inflation (Gareth Chaney/PA)

Ahead of both sides meeting at the building on Lansdowne Road on Wednesday, Aer Lingus announced further flight cancellations to limit the impact of the industrial action on people’s travel plans.

It said it would contact affected customers from today to offer a flight change free of charge, a refund or a voucher.

A list of the impacted flights can bee seen on the Travel Advisory page on the Aer Lingus website.

“Aer Lingus fully understands the anxiety being experienced by customers given the uncertainty caused by Ialpa’s industrial action and is giving impacted customers as many options as possible,” it said in a statement.

The pilots had been seeking a pay increase of 24%, which they say equates to inflation since the last pay rise in 2019.

However, Ialpa said last week that it would be willing to consider a lower pay increase.

Aer Lingus industrial action
Aer Lingus pilots march around Dublin Airport (Evan Treacy/PA)

But it accused Aer Lingus of not making a similar compromise to move from its offer of 12.25%, without requests for pilots to improve productivity.

On his way into the Labour Court, Mr Tighe said that Ireland is “a small but very successful open economy”.

“While attracting business, it must be acknowledged that business owners who do not protect their employees from inflation in a successful environment are ultimately and in time going to impoverish their employees.

“That will happen from the lowest employees as they slide off the bottom one by one.

“We asked the Labour Court to consider as we go forward, the profitable nature of the company and how a reasonable claim is to protect us all from inflation.”

Mr Moriarty, the chief corporate affairs officer at Aer Lingus, apologised to customers for the 470 flight cancellations to date.

Finance Minister Jack Chambers said the industrial dispute has been ‘incredibly damaging’ for the Irish economy (Cate McCurry/PA)
Finance Minister Jack Chambers said the industrial dispute has been ‘incredibly damaging’ for the Irish economy (Cate McCurry/PA)

“We are trying to communicate as effectively as possible with our customers, giving them the options to rebook, to refund or to rearrange their travel.

“But we do appreciate that this is very disruptive upon them and that’s uppermost in our mind.

“We’d like to go through the process of seeing what the court recommend and address the consequences of that afterwards rather than now.”

He added: “The reason for the cancellations is to build resilience into our schedule, to limit the number of cancellations actually, because without that resilience and that buffer within our operation, there would be more cancellations.

“The nature of the work to rule is cumulative. As rosters age they deteriorate and an unwillingness to accept changes to rosters on a daily basis means that the roster deteriorates over time and that’s what causes the impact in terms of cancellations.”

Finance Minister Jack Chambers said the industrial dispute has been “incredibly damaging” for the Irish economy.

“I think it has caused enormous disruption to many tourists but also Irish people who were looking forward to that holiday abroad,” he said.

“I think the dispute, up to this point, has been far too entrenched between both sides. I welcome the fact that they’re in a process now in the Labour Court, and hopefully we will get a successful resolution of it.

“But I’d say there’s ongoing concern that, if this persists, it’s going to cause continued damage from a tourism and economic perspective.”