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Search-and-rescue helicopter pilots industrial action called off to allow for talks

The pilots had planned to take action as a result of a dispute on rostering issues.

IRISH COAST GUARD search-and-rescue service helicopter pilots have called off industrial action that was set to begin today. 

The pilots had planned to take action as a result of a dispute on rostering issues. 

The Irish Coast Guard search-and-rescue service is operated under contract company CHC. CHC operates five aircraft in Ireland as part of the Irish search and rescue service. There are four aircraft based across four bases, and one is a back-up aircraft. 

Last week, the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (Ialpa), a branch of the trade union Fórsa, issued a notice of industrial action to CHC. This happened after a ballot of Ialpa members at CHC overwhelmingly supported industrial action. 

Fórsa official Brendan O’Hanlon said earlier this week that roster issues have been an “ongoing problem for 18 months”, and that the service is “over-reliant on overtime”. 

“The service is over-reliant on overtime in order to maintain the required level of service, and has survived for a prolonged period on the goodwill and tolerance of the pilots themselves,” he said. 

“This is simply unsustainable.” 

The pilots had planned to engage in a work-to-rule action beginning today. This would have meant they would work a fixed pattern roster of six days of work (containing three 24-hour shifts) followed by three calendar days free of all duties and obligations to CHC. 

Both parties met a number of times this week in an attempt to reach a resolution.

Earlier this week, CHC said in a statement: “Ialpa has notified the company of its decision to take industrial action. Industrial action would see pilots working to agreed roster patterns. CHC is committed to continuing to engage in dialogue with the union to avoid industrial action.” 

In a statement to the Labour Court today, however, O’Hanlon, on behalf of Fórsa Trade Union, confirmed that the industrial action has been called off for now. 

“Following local last-minute discussions designated to avert the pending action, it has been agreed to defer any action to allow further engagement,” the letter said. 

Both parties have agreed that “in the event that agreement cannot be reached” they will request an urgent Labour Court hearing. 

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