SIPTU representatives at Aer Lingus have boycotted a meeting this afternoon with the high level expert panel appointed by the Government in a bid to resolve the complex dispute over the €780m deficit in the aviation pension scheme.

SIPTU sources said staff were furious that Aer Lingus refused to release members of the Pensions Committee from their normal duties to attend today's meeting.

However, it is understood that representatives from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and other unions attended the meeting with the expert panel and Aer Lingus management.

In a statement, Aer Lingus said that the panel had invited airline management and nine principals from the trade unions to attend today's meeting.

The company said it understood that SIPTU refused to attend the meeting on the basis that 16 Aer Lingus staff members were not released from their duties to be there.

It said the meeting proceeded in the absence of SIPTU and that Aer Lingus continues to engage constructively with the panel.

Earlier, the expert panel met representatives of Dublin Airport Authority management and unions, including SIPTU, to discuss addressing the shortfall affecting the DAA, which shares the Irish Aviation Pension Scheme with Aer Lingus.

Further talks are expected to continue over the next two weeks, after which the panel is due to report back to the Government on any progress that may have been made.

There has been considerable tension between Aer Lingus and SIPTU since the airline issued legal proceedings against both the union and official Dermot O'Loughlin for damages arising from last month's threatened strike.

The strike was called off two days before it was due to go ahead after the DAA secured an injunction restraining the union from proceeding with the industrial action.