The Labour Court has recommended that aviation maintenance firm Shannon Aerospace should defer closing its defined benefit scheme for up to two months to allow negotiations to take place.

It is the latest in a number of similar pension rows over the closure of so-called guaranteed defined benefit schemes, where unions fear that members' benefits will be significantly reduced if they are transferred to a defined contribution scheme.

Shannon Aerospace has told staff it will cease contributions to its defined benefit scheme from 3 February, and introduce a new defined contribution scheme.

SIPTU told the Labour Court that a defined benefit scheme is a condition of workers' employment.

It also argued that the scheme's actuary has calculated that the current level of contributions should meet regulatory standards for the next five years, and that a further 2% contribution would sustain it for a further ten years.

However, the company told the Labour Court that it could not sustain the costs associated with the DB scheme, and expects it to experience funding difficulties in the future which the company will be unable to address.

It says that converting to a new DC scheme now while the scheme is in surplus would enhance transfer values.

Labour Court Chairman Kevin Duffy recommended that Shannon Aerospace and SIPTU should enter negotiations on the company's proposal for a maximum of two months.

He said they should explore the possibility of providing a compensatory arrangement in the event of agreement being reached.

He recommended that while the talks take place, the company should continue to fund the existing defined benefit scheme, with both sides maintaining the status quo.

Shannon Aerospace said it could not comment on the recommendation as yet.

It is understood SIPTU will hold a general meeting of staff on Tuesday to consider it.

Meanwhile staff at Aer Lingus, the Dublin Airport Authority and Shannon Airport are preparing to ballot for industrial action in a similar row over an €800m deficit in their joint pension scheme - the Irish Aviation Superannuation Scheme.

Further disputes over defined benefit pension schemes are taking place at Marks and Spencer, the Mater Private and a number of other companies.

Elsewhere, members of the defined benefit pension scheme at Element Six, formerly known as De Beers Diamonds, are suing the trustees of the scheme for allegedly failing to pursue the employer for additional contributions to the scheme.

The outcome of that case is expected next month.