No justification for aviation strike - Transport Minister

Tuesday 11 February 2014 23.34
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SIPTU warn strike action could begin within two weeks
SIPTU warn strike action could begin within two weeks
Dispute centres on the restructuring of joint Aer Lingus/DAA pension scheme
Dispute centres on the restructuring of joint Aer Lingus/DAA pension scheme

Minister for Transport Sport and Tourism Leo Varadkar has said there is no justification for strike action at Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority in a long-running dispute over pensions.

SIPTU has warned Aer Lingus, the DAA and the Shannon Airport Authority that they could face a full withdrawal of labour within two weeks after staff overwhelmingly backed industrial action.

SIPTU Pensions Policy Advisor Dermot O'Loughlin said that the union's Industrial Action committee had not yet finalised what form industrial action would take.

However, he said action could take place in two weeks.

Mr O'Loughlin said given the mood of the angry and disillusioned staff who were facing disastrous pensions, it was more likely that they would go for the more serious option of a full withdrawal of labour.

Leo Varadkar said both staff and employers are paying into a pension that is no longer viable, and noted that both sides are frustrated that no solution has been found to date.

He said he understood that the trustees will issue their proposals to address the deficit in the next week or so.

The minister said there was no justification for strike action before those new proposals are considered.

SIPTU members at the Shannon Airport Authority voted 96% in favour of strike action. 

The dispute centres on the restructuring of the joint Aer Lingus/Dublin Airport Authority pension scheme, which has a deficit of around €780 million.

Employees fear that their benefits will be significantly reduced as a result.

91% of the Aer Lingus staff balloted backed industrial action, with 80% prepared to support a full strike.

78% voted to withhold pension contributions from the current pension scheme.

SIPTU represents ground staff grades as well as some cabin crew, but does not represent pilots.

Other unions have not yet balloted for industrial action.

The union's members at the Dublin Airport Authority voted by 89% to back strike action on the same issue.

Management at both Aer Lingus and the DAA say they cannot resolve the row until the pension scheme trustees issue a new funding proposal to the Pensions Regulator.

Yesterday, the DAA said it expected the trustees' proposal soon.

Shannon Aerospace staff vote for industrial action

Staff at aviation maintenance firm Shannon Aerospace have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in their dispute over their pension arrangements.

Last week the company ceased contributions to the defined benefit pension scheme even though it was not in deficit.

The company said it was replacing the defined benefit scheme with a defined contribution scheme.

95% of staff have now voted to take industrial action.

SIPTU official Tony Carroll said the union would take a few days to reflect on their next move and what form industrial action might take.

He said they had called on the company to restore the pension contributions to the defined benefit scheme.

A spokesperson for Shannon Aerospace said they were considering the implications of the ballot outcome.

Sources on both the management and union sides described the situation as serious.