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Dublin: 15 °C Monday 23 September, 2019
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Strike by Irish-based Ryanair pilots called off after court ruling

An injunction sought by Ryanair against the strike has been granted.

Ryanair have argued the strike action was unlawful.
Ryanair have argued the strike action was unlawful.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Images

THE HIGH COURT has granted Ryanair an injunction preventing its Irish-based pilots from going on strike later this week.

In his ruling this morning Mr Justice Denis McDonald said that he was satisfied from the evidence that Ryanair DAC was entitled to orders against Forsa, which is the parent union of Ialpa, preventing the airline pilots from striking for 48 hours commencing on midnight on 22 August next.

The injunction, which was fully contested, is to remain in place pending the full hearing of the dispute.

The judge found Ryanair had made out a fair issue that requires to be tried before a full hearing of the court. He said the balance of convenience favoured the granting of the injunction.

The airline had also satisfied the court that damages would not be an adequate remedy for the disruption it and its passengers would sustain in the event of a strike proceeding.

The judge said that given the issues raised in the case he would have preferred more time to consider his decision, but due to the short time frame involved and mindful of travel arrangements made by many people had to give his ruling this morning.

Fórsa has confirmed that the strike is now off with a spokesperson saying that members have been informed.

“Fórsa is grateful to Justice McDonald and the staff of the Court Service for the expeditious way they have dealt with this case.

On foot of today’s ruling, the union has informed its members, who are directly-employed Ryanair pilots based in the Republic of Ireland, that the strikes planned for tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday (23rd August) will not now take place.
Once the union has the ruling in writing, we will consider it in detail and consult with our legal team. Only then will Fórsa be in a position to consider its next steps.

The union believes that it would be inappropriate to comment further until Justice McDonald has made a full interlocutory ruling.”

Ialpa represents approximately 180 Dublin based pilots who are directly employed by Ryanair, recently balloted its members who voted to go on strike in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Mr Justice McDonald also secured an undertaking from Ryanair to progress the full hearing of its claim against the union.

He said that in cases such as this the granting of the injunction was often the end of the matter.

Without that undertaking, given to the court by Ryanair’s counsel Martin Hayden SC appearing with Eoin O’Shea Bl, the judge said he would not be prepared to grant the order restraining the strike.

Pilots 

Ryanair’s action, which was opposed, was also against several pilots who are members of Ialpa, including that union’s president Mr Evan Cullen.

In his decision, the Judge said an issue had been raised by Ryanair about the validity of union’s strike ballot, which was conducted on 9 August last.

The union had said that the ballot had been conducted in a proper manner, and had strongly denied Ryanair’s claims in that regard the judge said.

A question was raised by Ryanair as to why only 109 or 61% of the 180 members of the union entitled to vote had cast a ballot, the judge said.

The Judge said that there was an onus on the union to provide evidence that the secret ballot on the proposed industrial was in compliance with its own rules, and details needed to provide that all union members were aware of the ballot and were given an equal opportunity to vote.

The judge said that there was a lacuna or gap in the evidence tendered by the union, supporting its claim that the ballot was compliant with rules, to the court in regards to that specific claim.

The judge said he was not finding fault with the union, and said the gap was probably down to to the short time frame available.

However, he said the evidential gap was there and the court had to apply what is clearly set down in statute.

In the circumstances, the judge could not make a finding that the union was entitled to the benefit of Section 19(2) of the 1990 Industrial Relations Act that would have prevented legal action being taken against the proposed industrial action by the pilot’s union.

The judge went on to say he was satisfied Ryanair had raised a fair issue to be tried, including that the proposed strike breached an agreement the parties signed up to last year.

It claimed that agreement, following industrial action last July/August, was entered into following a mediation conducted by retired Workplace Relations Commission Chair Mr Kieran Mulvey.

He noted that Forsa’s had argued that the 2018 agreement only concerns issues that arose between Ryanair and the union members last year and has nothing to do with the current dispute which relates to pay.

The union, he added had said the 2018 agreement related to specific issues including pilots grades, annual leave and base transfers.

While the court was not making any findings in relation to these conflicting arguments, and the judge said the union had made strong submissions in regards its arguments, he said that it had to be said that the airline had raised a fair issue to be tried.

Decision 

In his decision, the judge said that he noted the parties willingness to return to mediation. The judge was also critical of certain remarks made on Ryanair’s behalf about Ialpa contained in its sworn statements in support of its application for the injunction.

Such remarks the judge said had “no place” in the affidavits, and he wanted to make it clear they were not something he took into consideration when arriving at his decision.

The judge added that other claims by Ryanair, including that the dates of the industrial action were chosen to cause maximum disruption to its business and coincide with strike action being taken on the same dates by Ryanair’s UK-based pilots, and that no valid trade dispute existed between the parties were matters to be considered at the full hearing of the action.

The judge said that he was further satisfied from the evidence given to the court concerning the adequacy of damages and the balance of convenience, that an injunction should be granted.

The judge, after receiving the undertaking from Ryanair that it will progress its action against the Union, adjourned the matter to a date in September.

- With reporting by Daragh Brophy and Michelle Hennessy.

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