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Aer Lingus Offers to Meet Pilots to Avert Industrial Action

Aer Lingus Offers to Meet Pilots to Avert Industrial Action

Hospital Aer Lingus has extended an offer to meet with pilots in an effort to resolve an ongoing dispute just days before planned industrial action is set to commence.

This move has been described as “positive” by both parties, raising hopes that a resolution may be reached this week.

The dispute has seen tensions escalate between Aer Lingus and the pilots, who are represented by the Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (Ialpa). Aer Lingus has labeled the pilots’ actions as “insidious” and akin to “blackmail,” while the pilots have accused the airline of making threats and fostering antagonism. The pilots are demanding a pay increase and have voted to participate in a work-to-rule action, which would involve refraining from overtime and out-of-hours duties for five days starting Wednesday.

In preparation for the industrial action, Aer Lingus announced the cancellation of 124 flights, affecting 20,000 customers over the five-day period. Following this announcement, pilots declared an additional eight-hour strike for Saturday, June 29, from 5 am to 1 pm. This strike will necessitate the cancellation of 120 more flights, impacting thousands more passengers. Overall, 244 flights affecting 35,000 passengers have been cancelled, with Aer Lingus notifying all affected passengers and accommodating 80% with alternatives such as refunds or rebookings.

Ialpa President Mark Tighe confirmed that Aer Lingus had proposed a meeting, albeit with preconditions on what could be discussed. “We’re discussing their preconditions at the moment,” Tighe told Newstalk radio on Monday. “I see this as a positive development, but I couldn’t begin to say where it’s going to go. I would be very much hopeful it would happen this week.”

Tighe also mentioned that other unions, including those representing cabin crews, had expressed their support for the pilots and communicated this to Aer Lingus management.

Donal Moriarty, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Aer Lingus, acknowledged the potential for last-minute flight cancellations due to the industrial action. “That is a possibility unfortunately, because of the nature of the industrial action,” he told RTE Radio. “There could be close-in cancellations caused by pilot unavailability and refusal to work to their contractual flexibility.”

The pilots are seeking a 24% pay increase, which they argue corresponds to inflation since their last pay rise in 2019. Aer Lingus has offered a 12.5% increase, contingent upon discussions regarding improvements in productivity and flexibility. Moriarty urged Ialpa to return to the Labour Court or the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to resolve the dispute and called on the union’s affiliate, Forsa, to support this approach for the benefit of passengers.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin, speaking from Luxembourg, expressed his concern over the impact of the dispute on travelers. “It is shocking the degree to which the needs of those who travel are, in my view, being ignored in the context of this dispute,” he said. Martin emphasized the importance of negotiations and utilizing the state’s industrial relations mechanisms, including the WRC and the Labour Court, to resolve the issue. He highlighted the Labour Court’s interim recommendation of a 9.5% pay increase as a basis for further negotiations and appealed to both sides to consider the impact on thousands of families and workers planning their holidays.

“There is an obligation on the company to make every effort to create momentum around talks and get an agreement hammered out,” Martin concluded.

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