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Industrial relations 'concerns' as Government plans Irish Aviation Authority break up

The law to break up the Irish Aviation Authority is currently before the Seanad.

Image: Shutterstock/Peter Krocka

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS and other staff in the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) have “concerns” about the break up of the organisation, a union has confirmed. 

A spokesperson for Fórsa, which represents air traffic controllers and other staff in the IAA said that it was understandable that their members are worried about the move but said that industrial action is unlikely. 

The Irish Aviation Authority is responsible for the management of Irish controlled airspace, the safety regulation of Irish civil aviation and the oversight of civil aviation security in Ireland.

But under a Government directive the regulatory function must be separated from the commercial side which provides commercial air navigation services.

“While there are a range of concerns across multiple grades in the organisation there are established protocols and mechanisms that allow for engagement with the company. 

“These dispute resolution measures are very robust and mean that there is no industrial action likely,” a spokesperson for Fórsa said. 

Fórsa would not be drawn on the specifics of the concerns but a source within the IAA said that they centre around conditions and the risk that the work of the staffmembers will be fully privatised.  

A spokesperson for the IAA confirmed that a process of restructuring is underway.

“The institutional reform programme is a complex process involving many workstreams. In this regard, regular staff communications are provided to staff to keep them updated on progress.

“The IAA has been in regular contact will all staff in relation to the restructuring throughout the process and any issues of concern are being handled through the proper staff relations channels.

“This institutional separation will involve the current regulatory function of the IAA separating from the commercial air traffic control business,” the spokesperson said. 

As part of the plan, the IAA said, the Commission for Aviation Regulation will merge with the regulatory function of the IAA to form a ‘new’ IAA which will be responsible for the safety, security and economic regulation of civil aviation in Ireland.

“A new company will be established under legislation to carry out the commercial air traffic control functions of the current and will be rebranded as AirNav Ireland.

“The legislation giving effect to the reform programme, the Air Navigation and Transport Bill, is currently progressing through the Oireachtas legislative process.

“The Air Navigation and Transport Bill provides full protection to the terms and conditions of employment of all staff,” the spokesperson added. 

The IAA spokesperson added that a consultation between management and unions will ensure that there is no impact on employment in the sector.

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“Separately, it is agreed with our social partners, that the various components and protections associated with the reform process, as provided for in the Bill, will also be captured in an industrial relations agreement which will be concluded under our internal joint management/union consultation forum.

“Both AirNav Ireland and the ‘new’ IAA will be stand-alone separate legal entities and will continue to provide the high-quality service associated with staff of the Irish Aviation Authority, established over many years,” the spokesperson added.  

A Department of Transport spokesperson said that creating an independent and “well-resourced aviation regulator” would “support recovery in the aviation sector”. 

The spokesperson said that the IAA’s current commercial air navigation service provider will be established as a separate commercial semi-state company.

The department also sought to reassure IAA employees that the new regulatory-only IAA will better serve the needs of the sector and the public.

“As is established practice in agency restructurings of this kind in the public service, the Air Navigation and Transport Bill (currently before the Seanad) will give effect to these reforms and safeguards all employees’ existing terms and conditions.

“All employees will enjoy no less favourable terms and conditions under the new arrangements than they previously enjoyed before the restructuring took place.

“This reform process has been conducted in an open and transparent manner throughout, involving consultation with all staff and union representatives to ensure that all views are taken into consideration,” she said. 

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