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File image of Aer Lingus flight arriving at Dublin Airport. Alamy Stock Photo
Industrial Action

Aer Lingus and IALPA agree to attend separate Labour Court meetings amid pay dispute

Taoiseach Simon Harris has welcomed the move.

AER LINGUS AND the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (IALPA) have both accepted invitations to attend separate meetings at the Labour Court tomorrow amid the ongoing pilot pay dispute. 

It comes as pilots are set to begin industrial action from Wednesday until Sunday. Over 35,000 passengers have been disrupted and over 240 flights have been cancelled ahead of the five-day work-to-rule. 

IALPA informed its members this evening that the Labour Court had asked both Aer Lingus and IALPA to separately attend the court tomorrow to update the court on their respective positions.

Once this is complete, the court will reflect on how it may best assist both parties. 

Taoiseach Simon Harris has welcomed the decision this evening, saying: ”These meetings provide an opportunity to try make progress and ensure the travelling public are not further affected by this dispute.”

Harris this afternoon raised the dispute with employer and union stakeholders during his first meeting of the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF).

During the meeting, he said that given the “unique” nature of the Aer Lingus dispute, it is important that it is resolved as quickly as possible.

He also urged those present to do all they could to get people back to talks to resolve the matter quickly and to avert any further disruption and distress for families.

Earlier today, the airline said it is possible customers will be informed of flight cancellations at the departure gate due to upcoming industrial action by pilots.

Ryanair today added several flights to its schedule this weekend in response to the strike. 

Over 10 Aer Lingus flights departing from Dublin to London Heathrow have been cancelled over Saturday and Sunday, and Ryanair is putting on an additional 6.45am flight to London Stansted on Saturday, and a 12.15pm flight to Stansted on Sunday. 

Two Saturday flights a piece to Malaga and Faro airports departing from Dublin have also been cancelled by Aer Lingus, and Ryanair is putting on an additional flight to Malaga at 10.20am on Saturday, and an additional Faro flight at 6.15am on Sunday morning. 

Ryanair said the airline is “working closely with Aer Lingus to accept some of their transfer passengers during the school holidays”, but noted that there is “very limited seat availability”.

‘May well’ be more cancellations

Aer Lingus pilots who are members of the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (IALPA) are undertaking work-to-rule industrial action from Wednesday, as well as an all-out strike over an eight-hour period on Saturday.

The IALPA is seeking a pay increase of 23.8% over three years, which it says is “clearly reasonable and affordable for a profitable company such as Aer Lingus.”

In 2023, Aer Lingus had a full year operating profit of €225 million.

This was a 400% increase on 2022, when a full year operating profit of €45 million was recorded.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Donal Moriarty, chief corporate affairs officer with Aer Lingus, said it is a “possibility” that Aer Lingus passengers will only be informed of flight cancellations when they are at the departure gate.

He said that due to the “nature of the industrial action, there could be close-in cancellations caused by pilot unavailability and refusal to work to the contractual flexibility that they have”.

Some 244 flights have been cancelled so far and Moriarty said there “may very well be more”.

Around 120 of these flight cancellations are on Saturday due to the period of all-out strike action.

“The insidious nature of this industrial action has the capacity to result in much more cancellations over the coming weeks if it’s not resolved,” said Moriarty.

Moriarty remarked that Aer Lingus has “managed to re-accommodate, refund or rebook 80%” of the 35,000 or so passengers impacted, and that work is ongoing to do the same with the rest.

While Moriarty said Aer Lingus will engage with partner airlines and hire aircraft to “minimise the damage that’s been done”, he added that “it’s very difficult to do that”.

“The action has been timed in the peak of summer when that availability is difficult to find,” said Moriarty.

Labour Court

Earlier today, the Aer Lingus chief corporate affairs officer claimed that IALPA had set a “precondition to refuse to engage in the normal industrial relations process”.

He told Morning Ireland that IALPA “will only discuss the dispute in the context of their 24% pay claim, and a refusal to discuss the very things that could increase their pay beyond what’s already on offer”.

“Aer Lingus is perfectly willing to engage in proposals that would see their pay increase beyond 12.25%, but we have to be able to talk about the things that can do that,” said Moriarty, who added that “IALPA are unwilling to talk about those things”.

IALPA voted to begin industrial action after rejecting a Labour Court recommendation that would have increased pay by 9.25%.

Moriarty called on IALPA to “enter the Labour court or the Workplace Relations Commission” and also urged trade union Forsa to “agree to resolving this dispute in the interests of our passengers”.

Over the weekend, Captain Mark Tighe of IALPA told RTÉ’s This Week in Politics that Aer Lingus had become “very aggressive” in its recent dealings with pilots and that the airline had set up a “pilot sickness review committee”.

“Pilot sickness is a significant legal thing because a pilot, by law, cannot be in control of an aircraft when they’re sick,” said Tighe, who called the sickness review committee an act designed to “intimidate”.

Moriarty today told Morning Ireland that there’s been an “enormous spike in short notice pilot sickness over the last number of months”.

“We’ve had to cancel 56 flights since the start of the year because of that, 14 alone last weekend,” said Moriarty.

“We were very concerned about that, we’ve written to IALPA about it last week, and interestingly, since we wrote to them, pilot short notice sickness has returned to normalised levels.”

Speaking to reporters this morning in Luxembourg ahead of a meeting with the European Foreign affairs council, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said it is “shocking” that the “needs of those who travel are being ignored”.

He said the most “effective way this ends is by utilising the industrial relations machinery” such as the Labour Court.

“The Labour Court did issue a recommendation, an interim one, which does form the basis in my view for further negotiations,” said Martin, who appealed for both sides to “think of the many thousands of families across the country” who stand to be impacted.

“They’ve saved for this and it’s shocking they’re being ignored and wilfully put to one side in this battle between the management of Aer Lingus and the unions,” said Martin.

“There is an obligation on the company to make every effort to getting around the industry relations table and getting an agreement hammered out.”

With reporting by Jane Moore

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