SIPTU to contact Leo Varadkar over legal actions

Wednesday 19 March 2014 19.20
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Leo Varadkar had described the decision of Aer Lingus to sue for damages as 'unhelpful'
Leo Varadkar had described the decision of Aer Lingus to sue for damages as 'unhelpful'
Mr Justice Paul Gilligan put a stay on both orders pending a full hearing
Mr Justice Paul Gilligan put a stay on both orders pending a full hearing

SIPTU representatives at the Dublin Airport Authority and Aer Lingus are to write to Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar outlining their concerns about legal actions taken by Aer Lingus, the DAA and Ryanair in relation to last week's threatened strike.

The decision was taken at today's meeting of the Pensions Committee, which is coordinating the campaign to resist proposed cuts in pension benefits.

The head of SIPTU's Pensions Committee at the DAA, Barry Nevin, noted that Mr Varadkar had described the decision of Aer Lingus to sue for damages based on the threat of the strike, which was called off, as "unhelpful".

He also described the fact that Aer Lingus was suing SIPTU official Dermot O'Loughlin for damages in a personal capacity as "unprecedented".

He said that the committee, which comprised around 40 members, had unanimously passed a vote of confidence in Mr O'Loughlin and confirmed that it wanted him to remain as lead negotiator on the pensions issue.

The committee has also decided to seek a meeting with ICTU General Secretary David Begg, SIPTU President Jack O'Connor and SIPTU Vice-President Patricia King to discuss the events of last week.

The union will continue to engage with the high-level expert panel appointed to try to resolve the complex pensions dispute.

In a statement today, the panel confirmed that it has already had initial meetings with the DAA, Aer Lingus and the unions involved.

It said those discussions were now moving into a more intensive phase, and arrangements are being finalised for meetings with other relevant stakeholders.

It also confirmed that it is preparing a preliminary report by the end of this month.

SIPTU ordered to pay DAA and Ryanair legal costs

The High Court has ruled that SIPTU must pay the legal costs of Dublin Airport Authority and Ryanair following their application to prevent last week's planned strike from going ahead.

However, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan put a stay on both orders pending a full hearing.

Last Wednesday, the judge granted a temporary injunction to the DAA preventing SIPTU from holding a four-hour stoppage on Friday in the long-running dispute over proposed cuts in pension benefits.

Today, the court heard applications from both the DAA and Ryanair seeking the costs of the injunction applications.

Resisting those applications, SIPTU's Counsel Richard Kean argued that awarding costs against the union would not be helpful to a harmonious resolution of the pensions dispute.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Gilligan said that it had been open to SIPTU to set out the background facts to its case in sworn documents, but it had chosen not to do so.

The court had granted the injunction to DAA, and had said last week that it did not need to adjudicate on the Ryanair injunction application.

However, Mr Justice Gilligan granted Ryanair its costs on the basis that the company had raised two issues that might not otherwise have been raised; the status of Shannon Airport, which is no longer operated by the DAA, and the issue of a proposed "drive-by" protest.

The judge said he hoped it would be possible through engagement with the expert panel investigating the complex pension dispute to come to a reasonable settlement.

A spokesperson for SIPTU said it was considering the ruling on costs.

King outlines position on DAA board

SIPTU Vice President Patricia King who is a board member at the Dublin Airport Authority has told union members the question of the DAA's legal action to stop last week's planned strike never came before the board for consideration.

In a letter from Ms King to union members released by SIPTU, she also said that she had not had any contact or notification to her as a board member in relation to the matter. 

Ms King refers to an article in last weekend's Sunday Business Post reporting that a motion had been prepared calling for her resignation from the board of the DAA on the grounds that continuing to serve there would be a "conflict of interest".

Ms King said it is inconsequential to her personally whether she remains as a member of the board or otherwise.

She said that she has never derived any personal benefit from serving on any such body, and has never drawn down "one cent" in terms of stipend or expenses.

She said this had been her policy long before it became a rule of the union.

Ms King said: "If the question does arise as to whether SIPTU representatives currently serving on the DAA board are conflicted... I am only too willing to have that discussion with colleagues and act in concert with member’s wishes on the matter."