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Justice Minister Helen McEntee during Leader's Questions.
Pay dispute

McEntee says Aer Lingus pilots going on strike could cause damage to Ireland's reputation

Aer Lingus pilots are to commence work to rule industrial action starting next week.


JUSTICE MINISTER HELEN McEntee has said that if Aer Lingus pilots go on strike this summer it could cause “significant” damage to the country’s reputation internationally. 

Speaking in the Dáil during Leader’s Questions, McEntee said that “all parties need to get around the table” to ensure a strike does not go ahead after the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (IALPA) announced that pilots will start work-to-rule action next week.

Kenny Jacobs, the CEO of the Dublin Airport operator, DAA, also told TDs today that strike action could harm the reputation of Irish aviation – a top industry in the Irish economy.

Pilots with IALPA voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action after a long-running pay dispute resulted in stalled negotiations once again, as Aer Lingus is refusing to match the 24% pay increase that the association is asking for. 

The airline offered an increase of just over 9% to pilots, which the IALPA rejected. 

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou Mcdonald told McEntee today that the Government needs to do more to ensure that strike action does not go ahead, warning her that the Government has seven days to take action and intervene. 

McEntee said the “industrial machinery” of the state, including the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the Labour Court has been involved in attempts to settle the dispute, and can be again, but that the Government cannot “force” the parties to reach an agreement. 

McDonald said that the dispute is worrying for people who are looking forward to booked holidays, who are anxious about facing potential delays and cancellations, some of whom have been “saving and scrimping” to be able to go abroad. 

“The chaos of Summer 2022 in Dublin Airport is fresh in people’s memories,” she added. 

The opposition leader said that the threat of strike action is also worrying for the local tourism sector in Ireland, who depend on flights coming in and out. 

McDonald said that Minister for Enterprise and Employment Peter Burke and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan now need to get involved to ensure that a solution is reached. 

McEntee agreed that people are worried about the possibility of a strike, and said that some people will be aiming to fly back to Ireland who have been living abroad. 

She said that in her view neither the pilots nor the airline want a strike to happen. 

However, McEntee acknowledged that there is still a “large gap” between what is being asked for, and what is being offered. 

“I’d ask people to take a step back, the implications here are far reaching, including to our reputation internationally – the disruption this could cause would be significant,” McEntee said. 

She added that the Government is conscious of the impact on businesses and families, including those who have booked weddings, and separate accommodation abroad.  

Speaking before the Oireachtas transport committee this afternoon, CEO of Dublin Airport’s operator, DAA, Kevin Jacobs said if Aer Lingus pilots were to take further industrial action and go on strike, it would damage Irish aviation.

Jacobs, when speaking about the risk of Dublin Airport breaching its 32-million passenger cap later this year, told TDs: “The Aer Lingus strikes, if they happen – and I hope they don’t happen – could take a number of passengers out of the mix.

“That would not be a good thing for Irish aviation, it would be a terrible thing for anyone who has got holidays booked with Aer Lingus, but will help towards compliance [with the passenger cap].”

Aviation is one of the country’s largest industries, particularly for those in airplane leasing businesses where Ireland is the leading centre for the practice, according to Ibec, and contributed €897 million to the Irish economy in 2023, according to PwC.

Includes reporting by Muiris O’Cearbhaill

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